"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" (2016) - Rated PG-13 / Runtime: 118 minutes
Directed by Edward Zwick
Written by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Review by: JJ Mortimer
Boring, dull, and generally lifeless, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a stark contrast to its tightly-written, highly produced and underrated predecessor. This is a film that feels stock, uncreative, and devoid of knowing exactly what made the first film work so well, and tends to stay on-the-rails as far as doing what is necessary to get to a conclusion with a story that at times makes no sense, has complete implausibility, or I just plain didn't give a shit about.
After all that being said, the main problem with this film is that Jack Reacher himself, Mr. Tom Cruise, relatively takes a back seat to the needless extra characters that he has to haul around with him. The story to this film, involving a teenage girl who may or may not be his daughter, and a female Army Major who is wrongfully accused of some form of espionage in relation to Article Who Gives a Fuck, makes very little sense on where it is headed, and the definition of its plot would involve saying what the characters are doing scene-to-scene rather than a description of any real umbrella of a story.
This movie is basic, by-the-numbers film making, which is sad considering how much quality director Edward Zwick has had with his work in the past. For God's sake, he's the director of the Civil War drama Glory - my favorite film of all time.
Where the first Jack Reacher was crackling with wit, and was crisply shot by superb cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and tightly edited together and paced so well, Never Go Back feels like it was filmed by a Hallmark Channel film crew that didn't care about creativity in shots, or building tension with the editing. The villain is a stock character that to me wouldn't really have been a true threat to Reacher, but the film does such a fine job of making our main hero look as useless as possible until the moment the script calls for him to jump to action.
I mean, we're talking about one of the greatest wandering, homeless detectives in Jack Reacher, a man who is essentially a western version of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. Yet for some reason this sequel to one of my favorite action films of the past five years doesn't seem to care about how awesome he is, and instead wants him to implausibly walk into scenario after scenario where he gets cornered by a group of idiotic henchmen just for the sake of reminding us that he's awesome at hand-to-hand combat. We know he's awesome, but when the character has already been introduced to us as a master planner and tactician, I don't buy that when knowing he is being followed, he would just wander down a dark alley and away from a position he can use to escape.
This really hurts me to stab this movie so hard in its heart, because I love the first movie so much and I love the director's previous work. I'm a fan of Tom Cruise and he has consistently put out years and years of quality work. This is the first time I feel like he involved little of his input into the production and instead let last-minute film makers take over the production. My negative review, while based mainly on the production values of this film, also is a reflection of my disappointment in my expectations based on the quality we've seen before.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is colorless in photography, has no real dramatic ups-and-downs in its narrative, is cliche, and devoid of all the energy and charisma that made the first film so great and rewatchable. I'm upset to do this, but here's a Super Mario Bros. single star to display my displeasure.