Release Date: October 21, 2016
Director: Edward Zwick
Writer: Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Lee Child (book)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Robert Knepper, Danika Yarosh, Ninja N. Devoe, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Madalyn Horcher, Chase Savoie, Sue-Lynn Ansair, Julia Holt, Patrick Heusinger, Teri Wyble, Billy Slaughter, Jason Douglas, Michael Papajohn, Abbie Gayle, Wolfgang Stegemann, Sabrina Gennarino, Tilton Lipoma, Tiffany Forest, Rebecca Chulew, Nicole Barre, Starlette Miariaunil
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes
Production Company: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, Huahua Film & Media Culture, Shanghai Film Group, TC Productions
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
Country: China, USA
Budget: $68,000,000 (estimated)
Its been 13 years since Tom Cruise and director Edward Zwick teamed up together for The Last Samurai. It’s a must see and a reason one should be interested in seeing this chapter of Jack Reacher. From the outside it looks like just another action adventure movie, and it is. Audiences are always looking for something new in a genre they love, and Jack Reacher delivers that to some level. If I had to distinguish between the first and second film, I’d say the first is a slow chess game, while Never Go Back is a running puzzle. There’s mystery, twists, turns, and it possesses a strong entertainment value; but an extra subplot, a void villain, and a lengthy run time prevents it from truly standing out.
Even back in 2012 when the first film was released, I couldn’t help but think that this was another Mission Impossible rip off. If that was your concern, you can put it to rest. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is his own character with his own problems, which are few if you’re counting. He’s a man on the run and loves every second of it, even if he catches the lonely blues every once in a while. A more fitting subtitle would’ve been better, but this one still serves its purpose. As it suggests, and the film illustrates, sometimes it’s just best to stay away and never go back. But our titular character has a reason to, and it holds a significant amount of weight; which is great and gives a valid reason for this story to be told.
As a civilian it was an interesting perspective to see a different side of the military. Of course there’s a lot of politics involved, and it’s not as transparent as some may think. The film can be boiled down to some corrupt individuals who are doing bad things and need someone to pin it on (Reacher and friends), but its Reacher’s character and logic that makes it somewhat of a fun ride. He’s not impulsive, and his training is rooted in using his surroundings at their optimal potential. It’s also fascinating that the writer didn’t make his character an unstoppable assassin. By doing this stakes are created, and everyone’s more vulnerable. He wins some fights and loses others. Forcing the audience to play a guessing game with the outcome was a smart decision by the director.
Turner (Cobie Smulders) was a nice fire cracker in the bunch who shouldn’t be underestimated. When it was time to fight she held her own too, and every punch or kick dished out or received was welcomed with realism. While her involvement in the film was great, the addition of Samantha (Danika Yarosh), Reacher’s possible daughter, was not. Her role was solely there to give some heartwarming feeling to Jack’s character and make you feel all good inside. It didn’t work. Her character was fine, but it was blatantly obvious she was thrown in just to give Jack a harder time at succeeding. First, Jack’s character is fascinating because he has all the charisma and chops of an understanding loving man that could raise a family, but he chooses not to. He chooses to be a lone wolf on the edge constantly moving. So when you throw in an extra character that will redefine his entire make up, it needs to flow smoothly with the rest of the story. It doesn’t here, and it also ruins the image of Reacher that was becoming more popular.
The action between the villains was fine. Nothing too over the top, but it will still keep your attention. Other than a few cops making moronic decisions closing in on a suspect, and one action set piece that was there just for the sake of it, it was fun seeing the good vs. the bad throw down. As the adventure aspects pick up, some scenes are predictable, but then a wrench is thrown that thickens the plot and speeds things up. Even when you think the big bad guy has done all he can do, he’s just replaced with someone else who’s even worse. What’s upsetting is that when all is revealed the villain no longer has a valid reason for wanting to seek out revenge. He went from rising to the highest point to a whiny baby that must continue because the script said so. The last battle was the worst and didn’t fulfill its promise, but it was still enough to keep you engaged.
In the end, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was fun, but I don’t want to go back. Out of the two films, the first one was superior and this one a distant second. This ran a good fifteen minutes too long and could’ve easily flown better. One lesson that can be learned is that sometimes less is more, and dragging on a film to give an anti-climactic final action scene is the kryptonite that held it down.