In a movie landscape where franchises seem to rule the box office, sequels are the norm, not the exception. That’s especially true when you’re adapting something like the Jack Reacher book series, which now includes 21 books by Lee Childs, giving ample fodder for movies from here to the next century.
But when a film is as lightly received, both critically and commercially, as 2012’s Jack Reacher was, it’s difficult to see why Tom Cruise and company would force another film down audiences' throats. And yet here they are with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, a sad excuse of a movie that starts bad and only gets worse.
The forever-drifting Reacher (Cruise) is called back into action when the person who took over his old job with the military police, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), is arrested under shady circumstances. At the same time, he discovers information that he may be the father of a now 16-year-old girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh), giving him two missions that, Reacher being Reacher, combines into one as the bad guys try to stop him.
There’s really no point going into more depth about the plot, because it’s too convoluted and inconsequential to matter. Writer/director Edward Zwick fast-forwards through any kind of character or plot development, forcing connections between people that aren’t there in order to cram as much action as he can into the movie.
But if we don’t care about the characters, we can’t care about the danger they find themselves in or about much anything else they do. Add in a plethora of cheesy, clichéd lines; action that is generic as it comes; and situations so ludicrous that eye-rolling is the only natural reaction, and you have a film that feels like it came straight out a low budget movie factory, not a major Hollywood studio.
Epitomizing the slapdash way in which this movie appears to have been put together is the casting. The first film, bad as it was, at least had the foresight to cast soon-to-be stars like Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo, and recognizable stars like Richard Jenkins and Werner Herzog. This one only has Smulders, who at least has a little cachet from How I Met Your Mother and a few Marvel movies, and Robert Knepper, aka the creepy guy in every role he’s every played. Everyone else is straight out of B-movie central casting.
Even Cruise, who usually saves his movies through force of sheer will, can’t do much. He’s reduced to a never-ending series of quizzical looks, and even when he gets a chance to flex his muscles, the aforementioned ho-hum fight scenes do nothing to get the blood pumping.
Never has a title been more appropriate for a film than Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The filmmakers should have heeded that warning, and it’s a big flashing red light for anyone who’s even thinking about putting down good money for this two-hour waste of time.