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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, directed by Edward Zwick, is a formulaic action thriller that hits the sweet spot of never being truly boring or particularly exciting, just competent and forgettable.
Retired Military Police Major Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) goes on the run with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) who has been wrongfully accused of espionage. It’s clear that Reacher and Turner are taking the fall for something much bigger and in order to prove their innocence, they need to figure out what – fast.
The first Jack Reacher was a slick, low-key action thriller that didn’t make a lot of waves when it was released back in 2012, but still enjoyable. Like the all-but-forgotten Chris Pine vehicle Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, it was a callback to a bygone era of thrillers with a modern coat of paint. The follow-up, Never Go Back, sees the return of star Tom Cruise in the title role, but not director Christopher McQuarrie – his successor, Edward Zwick, doesn’t bring the same level of polish that made the original Jack Reacher stand out at least a little.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back never rises above serviceable. There are no glaring faults to be had, but the same can be said for memorable moments. The by-the-numbers plot introduces Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter and the movie splits its attention between him trying to come to terms with that and his strained relationship with Turner. The end result is that neither really get as much time devoted to them as they should and it might have been better if they had either gone with one or the other.
Needless to say, the movie’s climax ends with Samantha in mortal danger from the central antagonist, with Reacher and Turner running frantically to try and save her. It’s that type of story. The going-on-the-run hook is hardly gripping stuff since Reacher and Turner rarely if ever seem too worried about it. Turner talks about how her life was taken away from her, but the movie rarely lets us truly show her anger – the two are always running after the next lead, the next witness, the next fight. Some of the lines feel awkward coming out of the actors’ mouths – it feels as if they worked better on the page.
The action is decent if a little hard to follow at times. No particular sequence stands out, but there a few cool moments here and there – enough to keep you from falling asleep. Same goes for the humor, with a funny line every now and then.
It’s hard to recommend Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, but it’s equally hard to dislike it. It’s mediocre but mostly watchable. If you’re a Jack Reacher or Tom Cruise fan, stick with the original instead.