Film Review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) proves a predictable, dry and by-the-numbers sequel

Based on the 18th book in the series by Lee Child and a follow-up to 2012’s Jack Reacher, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back sees the titular brooding anti-hero (Tom Cruise) roll into DC for a date with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) only to find her imprisoned on espionage charges. Before long Reacher, Turner and Reacher’s potential daughter (Danika Yarosh) are on the run from the authorities and the paramilitary hitmen of General Harkness (Robert Knepper).

Action movies like this often get lambasted as dumb but Jack Reacher: Never Go Back truly is as dumb as they come. To its credit, the plot does feel right out of a pulpy thriller series. However, while these throwaway qualities make for a fun read, they make for a predictable, dry and by-the-numbers film.

Tom Cruise has never really been a truly great actor. Popular, yes. A high benchmark for cinematic performances, not quite. Still, it’s a credit to him that his last few performances have been as good as they are – especially given both his continued association with Scientology and how late into his career he is. Unfortunately, he feels quite flat as the titular Reacher here.

He grumbles his way through one-liner after one-liner and there’s nothing of the spark seen in his other recent roles Edge of Tomorrow and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. He’s so low energy that I can practically hear Donald Trump tweeting about his lack of stamina when I think back on it.

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In comparison, Cobie Smulders shines as Susan Turner. She comes off as a sharp character in her own right and is probably the standout of the movie. The script even uses her to try and address some of the sexist trope of thrillers – though it falls a little flat in this regard. They have an entire scene devoted to her calling Reacher out when he tries to get her to sit out the action. It’s a shame as the film then completely undercuts this confrontation by having her stand around idle during the film’s final showdown – leaving all the heavy lifting to Reacher.

Even the action scenes can’t save Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Edward Zwick’s direction here isn’t terrible but it’s neither memorable nor capable of carrying much momentum. The choreography in the fight scenes suffers from a similar problem. Perhaps worst of all, there’s no sense of spectacle. The only real setpiece sequence in the film comes in the final act – and it feels like it’s been ripped right out of the last Bond film.

At its worst, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back feels like a direct-to-video sequel. It’s a movie that feels cheap and half-baked to varied degrees on almost every level. From the characters to the choreography to the music, it feels like the discount version of a Bourne film. There are plenty of Tom Cruise movies that deserve a sequel but Never Go Back falls short.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is in Australian cinemas today