For a character so mythologized, so larger than life in his own world, the film surrounding Jack Reacher is surprisingly grounded and generic. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, arguably a Tom Cruise sequel that no one cared about, follows our drifter, a former exceptionally skilled army man, in a rather ho-hum action story lacking excitement and weight.
Perhaps Reacher isn’t supposed to be titillating, but every so often it tries. The attempts at humour are representative of a greater problem: it doesn’t have the strength of its convictions, unlike its titular action star.
That’s because Reacher is dark and brutal, but the Cruise charm can’t be hidden. It’s because this film follows a geopolitical story about the privatization of war, but doesn’t doesn’t want to make a larger deal of it. It’s because there is never any real sense of drama since Reacher is too powerful and savvy. It’s because of the various subplots of the story, one is better and somewhat different, than the rest.
In returning to Washington D.C. to connect with an associate he has yet to meet in person, Reacher discovers she has been arrested for treason. So clearly something is wrong. In attempting to figure out just what happened to officer Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher soon realizes that a lot of bad guys are working to kill and frame a whole lot of good guys for something else going on.
Also, Reacher may have a daughter. And that there is the most interesting part of the film. A 15-year-old from a broken home, Samantha (Danika Yarosh) becomes Reacher’s moral responsibility after the people that want him dead try to use her as leverage. Reacher, Turner, and the petulant teen take to the road, running from bad guys while trying to uncover their plot.
The action is pedestrian, the twists are telegraphed, the plots nonsensical, but the dynamic between our three characters is by far the most entertaining aspect. It’s cheesy at times too, but only because the film isn’t quite sure what to do with it all.
Reacher is meant to be this loner, this brute with his own code, but it’s still Cruise being Cruise, which isn’t a bad thing. It just doesn’t quite fit. He’s an actor that’s so winning, lifting up a mediocre script that is filled with awkward, mundane conversations. In doing so too, he changes the tone of the movie. The man on a mission story is a retread; the more interesting story is this loner forced to team up with a capable, strong woman, as well as a teen that may be part of his bloodline. That there was the better movie, but instead, we have this.