Movie Review: ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ will make you want to run away
There’s something moldy and deeply unappealing about “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.”
Seeing this movie is like going to an estate sale and the only thing left are multiple, damp copies of the same Tom Clancy novel. It’s like watching an episode of “Jag” in the day room of a nursing home. This unwanted sequel is like bad Jack Ryan fan-fiction written by your father’s drinking buddy after he hit his head on the curb.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is what’s playing on the last surviving tube TV of an elderly shut-in who died two weeks ago right as the police force open the door and discover the body. It’s the kind of film that shouldn’t have been released to theaters but directly to video 25 years ago. It’s uninvolving, witless, dumb and generic. Granted, nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” seems to imply that sometimes the goal is just to make a movie. Good or bad it doesn’t matter, just as long as it’s two hours.
Although equally disposable, 2012’s “Jack Reacher” was watchable and, at times, even entertaining. This was due in part to the film’s supporting cast of character actors, particularly respected filmmaker and documentarian Werner Herzog as an intense, half-blind maniac who, at one point, waxes nostalgically over chewing his fingers off in a Siberian prison. But in “Never Go Back,” Herzog is nowhere to be found. We don’t even get the benefit of a Richard Jenkins or an underused Rosamund Pike. It’s just Tom Cruise at his most charmless playing a character who is basically Batman if you stripped away everything that made Batman interesting. Which is to say Jack Reacher is just Bruce Wayne if he got really annoyed every time someone didn’t address him by his proper title (the only two words said more than “ex-Major” in this film are “Jack Reacher” and that’s reportedly uttered 200 times!)
At any rate, there is a plot, but being that “Never Go Back” is the kind of movie in which the only thing you’ll feel are your eyes as they unfocus and roll into the back of your head, it’s hard to pay attention. The film as I remember it involves Cruise and Cobie Smulders on the run from some convoluted government conspiracy perpetrated by some sort of Halliburton-esque contractor or whatever.
I don’t know.
What registers is that Cruise and Smulders are supposed to be a couple but their relationship is so sexless and formal it’s like watching a romantic comedy starring your brother and sister. Another thing I kind of remember about this movie is that every single fight scene seems to take place inside of an abandoned warehouse and opens with Cruise slowly explaining to a group of very patient thugs what he’s going to do to them. Oh, and Danika Yarosh plays a character who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter which indicates how exhausted this franchise is if in its first sequel it’s already introducing a junior version of its boring protagonist.
As in its predecessor, “Never Go Back” gives us a hero who, much like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every way. There’s no problem Jack can’t monologue his way through before a jarringly edited fight sequence breaks out. But a perfect protagonist leaves no room for dramatic tension and that’s troubling, especially in a film that’s as blandly plotted as a particularly lazy episode of “NCIS: New Orleans.”
Nearly unwatchable, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” isn’t so much your Dad’s favorite film as much as it is your dad’s favorite film to fall asleep to.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smuldes, Aldis Hodge
Director: Edward Zwick
Weekender Rating: W
Length: 118 minutes