When a friends gets into trouble it’s time for Jack Reacher to get involved.
2012s Jack Reacher was a fairly entertaining star vehicle with some decent action and a firm guiding line from Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie.
It provided a very reasonable template for a series of films featuring the character in line with Lee Child’s novels. Reacher gets into some bad business and uses a mixture of muscle and mind stuff to get through it. Change out those villains, pick a few new locations and keep the costs low and you’ve got a franchise.
Unfortunately, Never Go Back pretty much does none of these things.
From the off it’s as though new director Edward Zwick (who made The Last Samurai with Cruise) doesn’t want to make a Reacher film. There’s a focus on emotional story strands and a ridiculously heavy handed theme of family which is at odds with everything he stands for.
This attempt to humanise the character makes his bursts of brutal violence all the more awkward, though the film rarely seems to even remember that it’s supposed to be in the action genre, with a handful of fight moments spread over the two hour running time.
Cruise remains a committed performer and the film is at its best when he’s having fun with the more feral aspects of Reacher’s personality. He has some cool hero moments, a few decent one liners and away from nasty encounters with a very decent swagger.
Unfortunately, he’s pretty much the only one in the movie. While Cobie Smulders tries her best she’s sadly miscast as this kind of leading lady, and everyone else feels like the pound shop version of the actor you’d like in the role.
Overall, there’s a feeling of cheapness about the picture- of lumping all your hope on the star power of Cruise and hoping you won’t notice the rest is made of cardboard. When that dude from Fight Club and the other fella from Prison Break are your most famous second rung players, it just makes the whole endeavour feel like a TV movie.
It feels like there’s a cynical formula at work here - take a $60 million budget, lump in some money from China (where the previous film did quite well) and see the numbers roll in. A result around the $200 million mark will be considered a win for the studio.
As for the audience well I admit to finding a few moments fitfully entertaining but I’m inclined to enjoy just about any kind of action film to some level. Otherwise it’s too long, with a very basic story and, worst of all, more than a little boring.