Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Director - Edward Zwick
Cast - Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger
Rating - 2/5
Let’s talk about Tom Cruise for a minute. They say you must always separate the artist from the art, which is, like most rational advice, easier said than done. But with Tom Cruise, it has become a necessity. You see, despite his… quirks, Cruise is still – and this is a fact – one of the most dependable action heroes working right now.
And Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is the kind of film he should be able to pull off in his sleep. But this time, it’s almost as if several of his yes men actually said that to him, and the invincible immortal Tom Cruise, thetan-free and with the power of Xenu rushing to his head/heart, took a breath, and thought to himself ‘I can do that’.
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The problem with Reacher 2: Reach Higher is not that it’s a terrible film – it isn’t – but it seems like a classic case of lost in translation. These Reacher movies are based on the bestselling books by Lee Child – books, I should probably inform you I haven’t read. And now, having watched both films, it appears as if Child’s dense plot wasn’t whittled down enough this time. Thinking back, this is probably what made the first film such a retro blast.
Director Chris McQuarrie stripped Child’s plot down to its bare essentials, creating a sleek, toned down French Connection-esque action movie with some of the most memorable sequences Tom Cruise has ever been lucky enough to be a part of (That car chase was hands down one of the best of the decade). It was hardly the sort of blockbuster Cruise usually associates himself with, and under the direction of McQuarrie, who he brought back on to helm the last Mission Impossible movie, they created a solid (and rather underappreciated) film.
For its sequel (which seemed very unlikely for a number of years, until the project got injected with some of that always-dependable China cash), Cruise has reunited with another of his old filmmakers: Ed Zwick. It’s not uncommon for action sequels to hit the same beats as their predecessors. It’s always a safe bet; give the audiences more of what they enjoyed the first time. So it’s unclear as to why Zwick chose to essentially ignore all that made the original Reacher so good, but he did it anyway.
Honestly, if Jack Reacher himself were to slink up behind me right now, and put one of his Glocks to my head, I wouldn’t be able to tell you most details about this film’s plot – that’s how murky it is. It’s like watching two hours of the corrupt inner workings of your local municipal corporation, unending conversations about double crosses, triple crosses and bureaucratic red tape that submerge you in an inescapable quagmire - which would all still be fine, if it didn’t distract from the actual plot, which involves serious stuff like illegal arms, and even a father-daughter story (which was rather misguided by the way).
But there’s a reason for why the personal story didn’t work. Reacher is a blank slate, just like Bond was before Daniel Craig started playing him. Adding dimensions to his character could’ve worked so well for this film - if McQuarrie was still calling the shots. He added such subtle shades to Reacher in the first film, that it’s remarkable that this one is even a part of the same series.
Zwick however, never manages to settle on a tone, choosing instead to make the entire thing the cinematic equivalent of watching two hours of Rajya Sabha TV. This is the kind of film in which all the lawyers drive black sedans and all the unsavoury villain-types wear menacing black trench coats – you’d think it were contractually obligated for this film to be self-aware. Would it really have been that difficult to have Cruise crack an occasional smile? Instead, he delivers all his lines in this terrifying monotone – even the jokes – which makes for a rather disconcerting viewing experience.
Add to that an embarrassing excuse for a villain. Look, there’s no reasonable way to expect an actor to follow Werner Herzog, who was easily the best thing about the first film, but this guy makes the swaying, gyrating Enchantress from Suicide Squad look like Darth Vader.
For every good idea in this film, there are ten bad ones. For all its feminist ambitions – what with Cobie Smulders being in it and all – it’s still Reacher who ends up saving the day, and in one crucial scene, even making Smulders look like a fool (in front of twenty bad guys, no less).
There’s a reason this film isn’t called Cobie Smulders: Never Go Back. It needs to be stripped of all this pretense, and it needs to embrace what it really is: A film that would have been sentenced to an eternity on the 3-for-2 aisle of the local DVD store had Tom Cruise’s face not been on those jingoistic, Trump state posters.