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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back 2016 * * Stars

Jack Reacher: Never Go BackDirector: Edward Zwick
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge

If you factor in adjustment for ticket price inflation, 2012's Jack Reacher is one of Tom Cruise's worst box office outings. I still gave it a favorable rating. Am I surprised however, that Paramount Pictures actually green-lit a sequel for an October release? Oh you betcha. Out is director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). In is director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond). Cruise is the producer so hey, he must be playing favorites again.

Anyway, the first "Reacher" film had its moments despite a tolerable reception. It stuck in my mind as a slick thriller, a flick notable for its nasty hand-to-hand combat sequences. McQuarrie knew how to frame Cruise in said sequences. With Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (my latest review), Zwick has it pan out more sloppily, kind of like Christopher Nolan in most of his films (pick any one of them). Edward Zwick is good with gunfire and historical epics. Unfortunately, he's the wrong guy to showcase Tom Cruise in bone-cracking, kick butt mode. Oh and Zwick tries to recreate New Orleans in "Never Go Back's" climatic moments. The whole thing was shot in Pennsylvania making The Big Easy look more like a theme park instead of an actual location.

At well over two hours, the first Jack Reacher is twelve minutes longer than "Never Go Back". But heck, it moves more swiftly, has more threatening one-liners from Cruise, and doesn't include the sappy, sentimentality factor (Jack now might have a daughter that he never knew of). I mean it's just a better movie. For instance, I liked it more in 2012 when Tommy boy quipped, "I mean to beat you to death and drink blood from a boot." In 2016, his Jack occasionally just says, "I don't like being followed". Bummer.

Bottom line: As I viewed Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, I thought to myself, Jack Reacher "never go" forward. With this ho-hum sequel, Reacher's franchise can't possibly continue in years to come can it? I mean we're not talking James Bond here are we?

Image result for jack reacher never go back movie scenesUnnecessary sequels and pulpiness aside, Tom Cruise for what it's worth, is still decent in the lead role. Its been said that he's miscast because of his height (the Jack Reacher from the books is six feet, five inches). Whatever. In my mind he fits the part like a comfortable shoe. He's admirable. Around him though, "Never Go Back" isn't as much. There's no Robert Duvall from the first outing to keep him company. There's a lack of good villains like Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney (both from the original "Reacher") to get his blood pumping. No the bad guys from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back are unknown actors, pawns who think they can hang with good old "Maverick".

In retrospect, "Never Go Back" has some excitement in the form of chases by car or by foot. And Cobie Smolders as Cruise's female co-star, has some bite in her performance. Nevertheless, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back still lacks the mystery, the suspense, the intrigue, and the effectively hardcore fist fights from the first Jack Reacher (the producers should've stopped right there). It instead thrives on a convoluted plot, a saccharine ending, an annoying, teenage sidekick (Samantha played by Danika Yarosh), and an incorrigibly faux wink wink to the follow-up gods. "Never" a recommendation from me. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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