2012’s “Jack Reacher” was something of a pleasant surprise. Although on paper a mismatch for Lee Child’s burly protagonist, Cruise’s screen presence was enough to pull off the role of the muscular and relentless investigator. Unfortunately, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is just a ruthlessly efficient in justifying its own title.
Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Reacher must unravel a conspiracy which reaches right to the heart of the Military Police and deal with a secret from his past which may change his life forever.
The film begins brightly enough, with the sequence in the roadside café shown in the trailers but its downhill from there. Cruise looks a little doughy and tired; much less invested than in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. He might be starting to show his age but that doesn’t stop him from putting in the running miles as usual. There’s a lot of running in this movie. A lot. But it doesn’t mean Cruise is afraid to change things up, oh no. This time, he spends a good fifth of the movie running to catch various busses. Whatever else the future holds for Jack Reacher, he’ll make good use of that senior citizen bus pass when he gets it.
The potential reveal that Reacher has a daughter he never knew brings a weird ‘dysfunctional family’ dynamic to the movie which sits awkwardly against the ‘I’m going to kill you’ bombast of both the heroes and the villains. The maybe/ maybe not daughter (played by Danika Yarosh) brings a devious and streetwise attitude to proceedings and would have made a more interesting focus for the movie, certainly more than Cobie Smulders’ thankless by-the-numbers tough (but categorically not tougher than Reacher) leading lady.
There’s an attempt to create a nemesis for Reacher in the form of Patrick Heusinger’s Hunter but the rivalry never feels real. The Hunter looks like “Suicide Squad”’s Captain Boomerang might have, before he lost interest in his career and let himself go and he’s just as menacing and effective as his would-be DC counterpart. There’s never a moment where you feel Reacher might be vulnerable and without that risk there’s no drama.
Director Edward Zwick is completely mismatched to this kind of muscular, kinetic thriller and the direction is oddly clumsy. Some of the early scenes, especially those featuring Cruise and Madalyn Horcher are particularly heavy handed in their use of trickery to accommodate Cruise’s stature while the action scenes are routine and humdrum.
In a year which has seen a number of underwhelming sequels, Jack Reacher joins Jason Bourne in falling prey to that most implacable of foes – unnecessariness.