The lacklustre box-office performance of Jack Reacher in 2012 seemed to scupper plans for the film to become the first in a new Tom Cruise-led action franchise to rival the likes of Mission Impossible and its mixed critical response only added to its woes.
Fast forward four years and we’ve got the sequel that no-one was really asking for. But is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back the improvement that was so sorely needed and could it act as a catalyst to turn this popular novel series into a proper film franchise?
Investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) springs into action after the arrest of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), an Army major accused of treason. Suspecting foul play, Jack embarks on a mission to prove that the head of his old unit is innocent. After crossing paths with the law, Reacher must now go on the lam to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy that involves the death of U.S. soldiers.
Director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai) shoots the action realistically but even a commanding turn from Tom Cruise can’t save a bland script, so-so special effects and a plot so unoriginal, it would be easy to swap out Cruise for Liam Neeson and call it Taken 4. Or Matt Damon and label it Bourne 6? You get where I’m going with this, right?
It’s all been done so many times before and there are no twists and turns or anything remotely unusual to give the film a USP. Instead, the scriptwriters, of which there are three here, force our two central characters into a game of cat and mouse so lazy, the bad guys show up literally minutes after our heroes, with no explanation whatsoever of how they came to be in the vicinity.
Surely it wouldn’t have been difficult to add some extra exposition into the script. Cyborg baddies with GPS tracking systems implanted into their brains perhaps? I’ll save that idea for another day.
Nevertheless, the action is confidently choreographed with a Halloween parade finale being utilised rather well and Cruise plays the titular role well, despite being 54 this year. However, the supporting cast are drowned out by some horrendous dialogue and a story that doesn’t really know what to do with anyone apart from Jack Reacher himself.
And that really is about it. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is the most satisfactory film of the year by some margin. It’s not terrible by any means and it certainly isn’t fantastic, but it makes for a passable trip to the cinema, though one that you’ll probably have forgotten about by the time you get to your front door. It’s just that middle of the road.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back rating: 6/10