Contrived ‘Jack Reacher’ Sequel Wastes Cruise

The title of this sequel is “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and after seeing it I wish Tom Cruise didn’t go back to this franchise…

“Never Go Back” is a sequel to the 2012 film “Jack Reacher” and features Cruise returning to the title role. This time, Reacher must go on-the-run with an Army Major (Colbie Smulders) after she is wrongly framed for espionage. Edward Zwick directs and co-writes.

I enjoyed the first “Jack Reacher.” I thought it was a fun action thriller and featured an actual competent performance from Jai Courtney as the villain (if only because he has five lines the entire film). I was looking forward to “Never Go Back” and like most red-blooded Americans love me some Tom Cruise, which is why I was so surprised and disappointed that I got such a mundane, by-the-numbers shooter.

This film does such a contrived action sequel thing and that’s adds a kid to the plot. Sometimes it works (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”), sometimes it, ya know, doesn’t (“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”), and this time it definitely doesn’t. It’s not that Danika Yarosh is a bad actress (her character is annoying, but that’s the scripts fault) it’s that she has no purpose to be here except to push the plot forward. What made the first film so fun, and what makes the first 15 minutes of this one by far the best segment of the film, is Reacher is a lone wolf and we pay to see Cruise beating up a group of bad guys with his bare hands, not babysitting.

This time Cruise must go on the lamb with Smulders (serviceable, but she’s no Emily Blunt) and Yarosh, who may or may not be his 15-year-old daughter (in the most lazy, “oh my god, I don’t care” plot device ever) and it’s just not fun. There isn’t much action, and when there is it’s only decent at best; it’s cleaner cut than most PG-13 films but still nothing inspired.

The mystery surrounding the characters’ wrongful arrests isn’t engaging, and even if you were to care the film doesn’t give any hints to make you try and piece things together, or keep you in the dark long enough to have some sort of twist reveal. Instead it spoonfeeds the audience information in the most lazy ways (characters threatening to call the police unless they are told why they’re being pursued) and all of it just isn’t interesting.

A final gripe I have is about the villain. Like I said earlier, Jai Courtney in the first film was good; he was calm, cool and collected, and we were given enough of a backstory to work with. This time around we get a contract killer with no definable traits or characteristics, and by the climax we don’t have a vested interest to see Reacher kill him.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is puzzlingly boring and disappointingly dull, and while the first film is no classic it still deserved a better follow-up than this. Co-written by Richard Wenk who penned “The Equalizer,” this is just another poor excuse for an action film that, despite its charismatic star’s best efforts, fails to engage.

Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

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