“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” stars Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow, War of the Worlds [2005]), Cobie Smulders (The Avengers, How I Met Your Mother [TV series]), Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn [TV series], Shameless [TV series]), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Leverage [TV series]), Patrick Heusinger (Frances Ha, Black Swan), and Holt McCallany (Fight Club, Alien 3). It is directed by Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Defiance), who also wrote the screenplay with Richard Wenk (The Magnificent Seven [2016], The Equalizer) and Marshall Herskovitz (Love & Other Drugs, The Great Wall). Based on the book by Lee Child, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” finds Reacher returning to Washington D.C. in order to clear one of his friend’s names in a major government conspiracy involving the deaths of two American soldiers in Afghanistan.

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve seen a Tom Cruise movie; my guess would be “Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation.” As you all know, Cruise is a cherished actor on my site, and for good reasons. He’s electric both in front and behind the camera, making an entertaining experience for any viewer who watches his flicks. Some may think otherwise, but that’s my opinion. When it comes to “Jack Reacher,” I had respectable hopes that a series would be good. The first one is a personal favorite of mine, as it’s a classy, tasteful mystery filled with cinematography that harkens older cinema yet has a nice gloss to it. Every time it comes on television I find myself watching ten to twenty minutes of it. I didn’t have high expectations for “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” but I hoped for it to be a great experience nonetheless. What I unfortunately got was a mediocre piece of cinema that did an inadequate job in most areas of its filmmaking. The story, action, directing, cinematography, and acting were all a severe step down from the first feature, bestowing a cash-grab experience rather than a humble adventure. You would think that with a four year gap between the two films, there would be a solid movie given, but I believe that this was thought up on the spot rather than given time to fully develop. That’s not to say that this is a terrible flick, because it’s not. There are some redeeming qualities about it, but I’ll get to those later. Right now, let’s go over what went wrong. For starters, the story is a hollow shell. There’s hardly anything concrete, the bad guys are straightforward and given away at the beginning, and there seems to be no high stakes. On top of that, there are two story arcs to tend to, often stretching the plot thin rather than benefiting it. I was basically watching this thing and hoping for a cool action sequence when this movie should be giving a great mystery to crack. That’s what Reacher is known for: solving cases in a realistic Scooby-Doo sense. They did it in the first film, but in this one all of that is changed. The bad guys are shown early on, and there is little sleuthing done to figure out if it really is them or not. It’s really just one assassin constantly showing up to kill Reacher and Major Turner, and he reports to a head guy every so often. That’s it, nothing more. So, the question is…what am I looking for here? Really, the writers want me to care for the characters and see them develop through their predicament. The trouble is, besides Reacher and his so-called daughter Samantha, very little character development occurs. Turner and Reacher don’t do much, and when they aren’t on the screen we are subjected to humdrum, unnecessary dialogue given by bad guys or military people. Even when studying the issue Turner is trying to solve, it makes little sense to dive into it. Two operatives were killed close range in foreign land, supposedly by someone on the inside, and they need to figure out who that is and why. Well, the film gives little characters to really make a case as it’s easy to point out who killed them; the only one left to figure out is why, which the writers don’t provide enough engaging storytelling for me to care. All I’m here for is to see Cruise perform and, like I stated, see some action. Speaking of action, let’s get into my second point: there is very little action. Yes, fists are swung and cars are driven fast, but it’s either sloppy or boring. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat for any of it, nor was I clamoring for Jack Reacher to make it out alive. The only good fight sequence was the last one, and even that didn’t pack a huge punch. You would think that having Cruise onboard would guarantee great action, but sadly this is not the case. My next point involves the cinematography, which was bland. Nothing popped nor had me studying the screen, except for the opener. I will say that the beginning to this, which was shown in the trailer, was actually really good. However, everything else was just adequate for the boring story. It’s not bad cinematography, but it doesn’t try to be great either, and that’s odd considering how this is coming from a highly-esteemed director. There must’ve been a change in the DP (director of photography) position as well. Whereas “Jack Reacher” was stylish, “Never Go Back” was just workable. Finally, the performances could’ve been better. Of course, I liked seeing Cruise back onscreen, but the material held him back; it did for all these actors. They didn’t do too bad, but there definitely could’ve been improvements made. I didn’t feel emotion coming from them, nor a big attachment to the conflict they were facing. It was all just touch-and-go. When I mentioned that there were some redeeming aspects to this film earlier, there weren’t many I could think of. I did like the final scenes with Reacher and Samantha; I thought the writers wrapped up their story nicely, and the pair grew on me as the story progressed. There were a few moments throughout the feature I liked as well, but not many. The sheer fact that one of my favorite actors is in this boosted it some points, but not enough to save it from a bad grade. I was disappointed by this film, and I’m sure “Reacher” fans were as well. If they were to make a third installment, it better have Christopher McQuarrie manning the production; maybe then the sleekness of the first film will be restored. FINAL SCORE: 64%= Burnt Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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