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Movie Review: #JackReacherNeverGoBack

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is middle of the road action blah.

Review by Matt Cummings

It's impressive when you consider the effect which Actor Tom Cruise has had on the Jack Reacher series. His decision to portray the former military man-turned wandering badass gave Cruise a grounded hero that resulted in one of our favorite movies of 2012. Regardless if the diehard Reacher fans liked the smallish Cruise for the 6'5" role (are there diehard Reacher fans out there?), it garnered a second film after the original took off in the home market. Sadly, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a step backward: it's a predictable, paint-by-the-numbers experience that's strangely still very watchable.

When his Military Police replacement Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) is arrested for treason, Reacher (Cruise) busts her out and goes on a quest to prove her innocence. But his greatest struggles won't be against Turner's would-be assassin (Patrick Heusinger), but with the 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who has filed against Reacher for being a deadbeat dad. Soon, the headstrong and persistent girl becomes the target of the assassin, who promises to make Reacher pay for investigating a military conspiracy with far-reaching implications. The results will see the drifter tested to his limits, while seeks to identify whether Samantha is in fact her daughter.

Never Go Back does in fact go back(ward) thanks to the rather limp direction by Edward Zwick, who fails to up the ante from the original in any way. The car chases seem lamer and the back-and-forth between Cruise and the good Smulders feels more like Writer Richard Wenk took author Lee Child's book in name only, failing to infuse the story with anything more than average-pulse story beats. We know how this tale is going to play out, and can read the tea leaves long before they happen, including the wedged-in appearance of Samantha, who will be pursued at just the right time. Nothing here is new or done with the same vigor as Director Christopher McQuarrie's 2012 gem, with a number of issues popping up throughout.

The original impressed as a terrific murder mystery: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back retains absolutely zero of that panache. The action is as routine as a penny on the ground: none of it is shot uniquely, nor is Cruise really given a moment to throw down properly like he did against Jai Courtney in the original. Perhaps the worst part of Never Go Back are the one-note bad guys, including the arms/drug dealer Gen. Harkness (Robert Knepper) who's only there to be arrested by Reacher during the pivotal third act. The Zeck would have made Harkness eat his fingers before killing him, and probably enjoyed it. Luckily, the chemistry between Cruise, Smulders, and Yarosh keep us from falling asleep. Smulders proves why she'll be a great Maria Hill when Marvel takes the gloves off, and Yarosh is a suitable force against the always-excellent Cruise.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is your standard action flick and nothing more. It's largely predictable, fails to be remarkable, and is watchable mainly due to Cruise's absolute command of the character. Without him, it's an uninspired hack of a really great murder mystery that McQuarrie so lovingly gave us with the original. See it, so long as you know what you're going to get.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements and has a runtime of 118 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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