No one expected a sequel to 2012’s Jack Reacher, a somewhat successful yet not terribly memorable franchise starter for Tom Cruise. Even more surprised by the announcement of a sequel, evidently, were the filmmakers and cast, leaving Jack Reacher: Never Go Back as one of the most rushed, slapdash, confusing and arguably unfinished movies with a cast of this caliber to receive such wide distribution in recent memory. There’s the beginning of a plot, a semblance of structure, a hint of chemistry between its characters and a faint suggestion of exciting action sequences. But despite a committed cast, there’s virtually nothing that differentiates Jack Reacher: Never Go Back from playing like a straight-to-DVD B movie mistakenly sent to multiplexes.
The story follows Reacher (Tom Cruise) as he risks everything to clear the name of Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), his former supervising officer who has been arrested for espionage. In addition to being fugitives from the law, they must also protect Samantha (Danika Yarosh), a teenage girl whose life is in danger because of an unresolved paternity suit claiming Reacher is her father, giving the villains leverage against him.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
PG-13, 118 minutes
Violet Crown Cinema and Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
Jack Reacher was nobody’s favorite movie. We already got something of a follow-up when director Christopher McQuarrie took over on Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, bringing his knack for serious-but-silly spy shenanigans that only worked half of the time in Reacher. His flair is sorely missed in Never Go Back, with director Edward Zwick (Pawn Sacrifice, Defiance, Blood Diamond) seeming lost at the wheel of this Tom Cruise vehicle, utilizing none of the star’s famous stunts, sly grins and winking at the audience while still committed to the role. Instead, what we have is Cruise and company running and making phone calls. That’s really all that happens.
The rest of the cast does an admirable job with the material they’re given. Smulders breathes life into Major Turner, a character who, based on Zwick’s constant gawking and the dialogue’s unwarranted piggishness, was not written with her skills as a performer in mind. Yarosh is also terrific as Samantha, though the character feels lifted from an entirely different movie. The rest of the cast is filled with solid work from good actors—Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper—whose characters are nevertheless poorly conceived and unconvincing.
Special mention must be given to what must be one of the worst disappointments of a villain in action movie history. In Jack Reacher, delightfully nihilist arthouse legend Werner Herzog played Zec Chelovek, a figure mysterious enough to inspire curiosity in an otherwise conventional action flick. Herzog is easily one of the first film’s selling points. Here, Patrick Heusinger plays the Hunter, a boring ex-soldier turned assassin for a shady private military contractor whose main character attribute is that he’s just really mean. That’s it. Zec’s personality was forged in forced labor camps, with a compelling yet creepy charm that only Herzog could deliver. The Hunter, meanwhile, just doesn’t much care for Reacher. It’s a massive step down that best encapsulates the entirety of this perfunctory sequel.
Contact Kristofer Jenson firstname.lastname@example.org.
Playing this week
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
The Accountant, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Deepwater Horizon, The Girl on the Train, I’m Not Ashamed, Keeping Up With the Joneses, Kevin Hart: What Now?, Max Steel, The Magnificent Seven, Masterminds, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Storks, Sully
Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000
American Honey, The Birth of a Nation, Denial, The Girl on the Train, Keeping Up With the Joneses, Kevin Hart: What Now?, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Oasis: Supersonic, Storks, Sully