JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (2016) seems to be begging me to never go back to the theater to see any more JACK REACHER films.
And there will be more JACK REACHER movies, since Tom Cruise owns the film rights to the Jack Reacher novels by author Lee Child. Now, while I didn’t particularly enjoy this second film in the Jack Reacher film series, I’m not at the stage yet where I’d never go back.
After all, I enjoyed the first movie, JACK REACHER (2012) a lot. It was a fun action movie, and Tom Cruise did a nice job in the lead role as Jack Reacher.
But now comes the sequel, JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK, which takes several steps backwards. The story isn’t as good, nor is the cast, and most disappointing of all is it’s directed by a very talented director Edward Zwick, who over his long career has made several movies that I’ve really liked, including GLORY (1989), BLOOD DIAMOND (2006), and DEFIANCE (2008).
With Zwick at the helm, this movie has no business being as flat and mediocre as it is.
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK opens with our hero, former military officer turned investigator and vigilante Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) taking care of a crooked sheriff whose been doing wrong by illegal immigrants. Reacher credits the arrest to a military officer named Turner (Cobie Smulders), who he has never met. But they hit it off over the phone and agree to meet for a date.
When Reacher arrives at her office, he’s informed that she’s been arrested for treason. Of course, Reacher smells trouble, and he sets his sights on clearing her name. He has to add his own name to the list of people to clear since as soon as he starts looking into this vast government conspiracy, he’s implicated as well, and so he has to conduct his investigation while also being a fugitive from justice.
Reacher breaks Turner out of her holding cell, and together they seek answers, but not before they add a third person to their group, a teenage girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter. When the bad guys threaten Samantha to get back at Reacher, he whisks his maybe-daughter away from her home so she’ll be safe, and of course she jumps right into helping them with their investigation. Now, that’s realistic.
The first strike I had with JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is its story is nowhere near as tight or as compelling as the plot in the first JACK REACHER movie. The mystery here just isn’t all that interesting, and the subplot with Reacher’s “daughter” is as cliche as these things go.
It doesn’t help that the villains aren’t that memorable either. The main baddie is a hitman type named The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger), who is supposedly an unstoppable killer, but since this is a Jack Reacher movie, there’s little doubt which character will have the upper hand when the two meet for their deadly showdown. The head bad guy, the man behind the scenes pulling all the strings to this vast conspiracy, remains largely in the shadows throughout, so much so he hardly matters at all.
And while Tom Cruise is back playing Jack Reacher, a role I really enjoyed him in back in the first movie, I wasn’t as impressed this time around. There was something really cool about the Jack Reacher character and the way Cruise played him in JACK REACHER. There was an edge to Cruise’s performance that really brought the character to life. That edge seems to be gone here.
There just seemed to be far less energy behind Cruise’s performance in this sequel. I didn’t get the same sense this time around that Reacher was a deadly force to be reckoned with, someone that could put a major hurt on a bunch of people with his bare hands.
Cobie Smulders, who plays Agent Maria Hill in the Marvel AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, as well as on Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, is fine here as Turner, the tough military officer who makes a nice partner for Reacher as they take on the crooked military villains. But it’s not a role that jumps out at you or makes you remember the character long after you’ve seen the movie.
Likewise, Danika Yarosh is okay as teen Samantha, but the role is rather cliche. The rest of the cast is serviceable but undistinguished. Another strength of the first JACK REACHER movie was its cast, which was pretty darn good and featured Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins in supporting roles. No such star power this time around.
I wasn’t overly impressed by the screenplay by Richard Wenk, Marshall Herskovitz, and director Edward Zwick. Combined, these guys have some pretty impressive writing credits, but that didn’t seem to help them there. Wenk has written some movies that I’ve really liked— THE MECHANIC (2011) starring Jason Statham, for example— but his previous credit, the recent remake of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) wasn’t one of them.
The story here was pretty standard, and the dialogue wasn’t really up to snuff either.
As I said, Edward Zwich has directed some solid films, but JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK lacked intensity and visual flair. None of the action or fight scenes remain etched in my mind.
The whole film was all rather flat.
I’m still willing to see future Jack Reacher movies, since I enjoyed the first film so much, but if any more play like this one, I’ll take the title to heart and vow then and there to never go back.