Thursday, 20 October 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

(M) ***

Director: Edward Zwick

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany.

"Says here you're 6'5" - now that can't be right."

ONCE fans of Lee Child's books got over the fact 6'5" Jack Reacher was going to be played by 5'7" Tom Cruise, most people were able to sit back and enjoy the first big screen outing of Child's ex-military man-turned-drifter.

Jack Reacher was not as spectacular or memorable as Cruise's Mission:Impossible franchise, but it ticked all the boxes in a satisfactory-enough way, and reminded us yet again there's a pretty solid argument to be made for Cruise being the Biggest Action Star On The Planet Right Now™.

The main problem is all of the characters he plays in action star mode (which is his predominant mode lately) are pretty much the same. Reacher, M:I’s Ethan Hunt, Cruise’s characters in Edge Of Tomorrow, Minority Report, Oblivion, and Knight & Day – they’re all similarly indomitable, largely unflawed, and ultimately interchangeable heroes.

So for Reacher 2 AKA Never Go Back, we have another enjoyable but unmemorable outing with Cruise as the impossible protagonist. For those unfamiliar with the character, he’s a composite of Jason Bourne, Sherlock Holmes and NCIS’ Jethro Gibbs, combining brute strength and agility with near-psychic investigative skills, useful paranoia, and a weird love-hate relationship with the US military and its protocols.

In this sequel, former military police officer Reacher builds a relationship with current military police officer Major Susan Turner (Smulders) after helping out on a case, but when Reacher drops in to visit Turner, he finds she’s been arrested. Naturally Reacher suspects a set-up (there’s that aforementioned useful paranoia).

After a jailbreak, Reacher and Turner go on the run to try and uncover who is behind the set-up of Turner and the murder of two military police officers.

Never Go Back is as satisfactory yet forgettable as its predecessor. In an effort to give Reacher some depth there is a daughter subplot, which becomes cheesy and silly but the film would be less interesting without it – if it wasn’t there we’d miss out on some of the film’s best non-action bits, which involve Reacher and Turner having faux parenting fights after being forced into an unfamiliar family dynamic.

The tension between Smulders and Cruise is okay – Smulders is a highlight and has the film’s most interesting character – and the plot is solid. The whole thing feels like a big-budget, bloodier NCIS episode, but the film’s “ah-ha!” moment is solid and the climax is convincing enough. Some cheesy lines get in the way but it’s all good fun.

Dotted in between are some impressive fights and shoot-outs but once again you can’t help but wonder what Reacher would be like with an edgier actor playing him. If Ethan Hunt is his Bond, then Reacher is Cruise’s Bourne, but neither of his characters are as spectacular or iconic as their predecessors.

Yet, without The Cruiser, this actioner would have far less going for it. Ironically, given the Cruise-control nature of his performance, it’s his presence that is the only thing that sets this apart from the pack.

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