The second Jack Reacher movie reaches for greatness, but fails to grasp it.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The ultimate power fantasy for 40-something dads on holiday is back! This time ex-military police officer/freelance badass Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) must go to ground after implicating himself with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), a senior military official accused of espionage. Caught in a conspiracy that covers smuggled weapons, corrupt soldiers and a tearaway teenage girl, a long-forgotten encounter from his past also comes back to haunt Reacher.
Never Go Back doesn’t quite live up to its underrated predecessor, but it still offers a little bit of everything for fans of its leading man. This is Tom Cruise’s film through-and-through, complete with numerous running scenes and the occasional brooding topless shot. Bolstered by taut pacing and director Edward Zwick’s experienced eye behind the lens, the film is best characterised as a solid mid-budget, low-stakes action film that gets the job done – albeit with a few bumps that threaten to derail the fun.
While it lacks a flagship set piece like the car chase from the first Reacher film, the action is still good; Zwick holds onto that no-nonsense punchiness that Christopher McQuarrie brought to the series. Like last time, Reacher leaves a trail of shattered femurs and punctured lungs in his wake – but it does make you wonder how much better this series could be if they pursued an MA15+ rating.
Smulders is great as the military policeman under fire for spying; her character is billed as an intellectual and physical match for Reacher, creating a tug-of-war dynamic that makes for some entertaining conflict between the two.
However, aside from the two leads, Never Go Back’s cast isn’t anything to write home about. Danika Yarosh plays Samantha, the 15-year-old stroppy schoolgirl who gets swept up in the chase, but her unpolished and uneven performance is often grating. Her entire subplot weighs the film down through the middle third as Cruise is hamstrung with babysitting when he should be bashing in skulls. It’s a disjointed attempt to inject some pseudo-paternal emotion to proceedings and ends up feeling mismatched with the rest of the film.
Similarly, the piss-weak villain isn’t even half as entertaining as Werner Herzog was in the first movie. Patrick Heusinger plays a lethal hitman assigned to bring Reacher down – and that’s about it. C’mon guys – if you’re going to make Cruise race around town, at least give him a compelling enemy to run away from.
All told, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is your typical, middle-of-the-road game of cat-and-mouse that fails to linger long in your memory. The stripped back action is just as snappy as you remember, but the plot is a little patchy and neutered by uninteresting subplots and a villain as dull as dishwater. Let’s hope a hypothetical third instalment dispenses with the pleasantries and gets back to bare-knuckle business.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is available in Australian cinemas from October 20
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures