You’d think by now that studios would recognize that ironically titled films usually presage a pretty miserable experience at the cinema. When you have the chutzpah to call this re-entry Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, half the heavy lifting’s already done from those last three words.
Yet the latest Reacher vehicle somehow feels even more disappointing than it should, despite the fact that the first one wasn’t all that great to begin with. Sure it had Werner Herzog chewing some scenery, but it’s the lesser of the recent slew of Tom Cruise action flicks, too dumb for its own good, too formulaic to be anything interesting.
It behooves one to remind that Cruise’s greatest asset is giving the audience what they want. Whether he’s throwing himself off a building or strapping himself to the outside of a plane he does so with a manic vigour that’s contagious. Unfortunately, with the Reacher character, all distant and brooding, he loses his greatest asset, eschewing his remarkable ability to channel physical and emotional empathy to an audience and instead we get a hum-drum, glum actioner.
They try mightily hard to make a go with this one, bringing in Cobie Smulders and Danika Yarosh to tamp down a bit of the testosterone and give the emotionally stunted lead a bit to bite into. The plot is some mashup of a police procedural and spy drama, toying with tropes such as fleeing to the airport or breaking out of prison executed as preposterously as an episodic television program.
In fact, the film feels in many ways like a shitty TV show, right down to the way that the action is shot in lazy, almost comically disorganized ways. What’s meant to be a showcase scene during a New Orleans parade comes across as derivative and silly, with a particularly galling echo to the last Bond film’s Day of the Dead intro. From its murky lensing through distracting extras framed in awkward ways the whole thing feels haphazard and amateur.
Still, Cruise gets off a couple quips, the bad guys get their heads shot off delicately off camera and there’s even a turgid car chase or two. We’re left with a brashly mundane film that feels like it’s running on empty the whole time, desperate to be cool and chic and instead crashing and burning on impact.
You’d need to be pretty bored to muster up the effort to reach for another Jack Reacher flick, and the film does little else other than remind of far better films that are far more worth your time. Maybe this time they will listen when they say to Never Go Back, but for all I know the desperation of crafting another post-Bond, post-Bourne franchise will simply be too much to let slip away. As the lead walks into the distance, maybe it’s off to find another, better way of utilizing the talents of those cast in this flick.