Director: Edward Zwick
12A | 1h 58min | Action, Adventure, Crime | 20 October 2016 (UK)
The Smoke Screen was quite a fan of the first Jack Reacher movie, which starred Tom Cruise as author Lee Child’s literary wandering hard nut – a former military MP who wanders around, Kung-Fu series-style, getting into trouble and righting wrongs via much fisticuffs. That film, like this follow-up, might have been stuck with a PG-13 rating, but still managed to mingle into its tone and construction some of the DNA of the “tough guy” films that directors like Walter Hill used to make back in the 70s. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back sees the director change – it is now Edward Zwick, who worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai – but it sticks to the same formula: minimal plot and dialogue, Cruise channeling his trademark intensity into bad-assessness and fighting rather than cracking that five-mile wide grin, and teams of goateed villains despatched after a grunted wisecrack.
And the formula still basically works, with this sequel again being a nice counterpart to CGI-heavy superhero action flicks that seem to creak under the weight of their plots, whilst Reacher’s hardscrabble existence (his schtick is to maintain no fixed abode, no credit cards, just one change of clothes and a car) sets him apart from the world of 1st class travel enjoyed by Bond. The Smoke Screen has always preferred Cruise throw himself into roles that stress his peculiarly focused nature, as opposed to playing blue-collar types or charmers. Cruise is not, and should never play, “regular”.
Adapted from the 18th book in the series by Child, Never Go Back sees Reacher return to his old military unit in DC as its new commanding officer and acquaintance of his – Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders, The Avengers) – has suddenly gone AWOL after apparently leaking military secrets. To make matters worse, Reacher is arrested for a murder just as he starts to investigate what he thinks is a fishy affair. Naturally, this is all a setup, one which Reacher goes about dismantling via extreme punching and threats delivered tersely through cellphones or bloody teeth a few seconds before said threat is delivered, though unlike the previous film, Cruise’s co-star plays a more active role here, allowing for some gender commentary to be slipped into the mix given Reacher is not the kind of guy into this whole tag-team thing. It is enjoyably unpretentious guff, but the film lacks the knowingly over-the-top performance of Werner Herzog, who played the first film’s demented Russian villain. The scum Reacher despatches here feel very “B-Team”, so much so you almost feel sorry for them.