Verdict: 3 / 5
Tom Cruise reprises his role as Jack Reacher in this sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit.
Critics may not have had glowing reviews for the first film but it did well enough at the box office to merit a sequel. Based on novels by author Lee Child, Jack Reacher embodies the quintessential cowboy/samurai archetype. Reacher’s a wandering loner, looking to enforce justice and right as many wrongs as possible. The character seems to resonate with audiences despite the antipathy shown toward the film. This time the action takes place four years after the first film. Jack has struck up a crime-fighting partnership with army Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). A budding romantic relationship between them is put on ice when Reacher visits Turner and learns she has been jailed on accusations of espionage. Jack decides to free and exonerate Turner and in turn he is arrested and accused of murder. To complicate matters, Reacher’s slapped with a paternity suit and accused of fathering Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh).
What worked in the first film; action and quick wit are successfully repeated in the sequel. The comedy is amped up due to Jack’s interaction with Turner and his ‘maybe’ daughter Samantha. The three of them play well off each other stretching the emotional spectrum of the characters. The narrative spins wildly between action comedy and crime thriller. Despite good comedy there are few moments when the serious moments feel sappy and veer into cheesy melodrama. Thankfully, flying fists and broken jaws are neatly placed to keep the excitement from sinking too low.
While director Edward Zwick and his co script writers, Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz added depth to Reacher, Turner and Dayton, they unfortunately failed to do the same with the two leading villains. We have no idea who The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) is nor what his motivation is. Does he kill simply for fun and money? Heusinger gives a solid evil performance but there is so little back story and depth for his and puppet master General Harkness’’character (Robert Knepper).
You would be forgiven for thinking Turner is the main character in the film. Too often Turner becomes a dominating character and Jack fades into the background in his own movie. The writers seemed to have been inspired by the last ‘Mad Max’ film, in which the titular character is overshadowed by his female counterpart Furiosa. In ‘Jack Reacher’ this bait and switch diminishes Jack’s role and the impact his character has in the overall film, unlike in the first film.
Despite some flaws Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a decent action film with just enough meat on the story line to prevent it from being overly generic and formulaic. Tom Cruise gives another good performance and hopefully, like the first film, perhaps it will become another unexpected success.