Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

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Never go back to one hit wonders either…

About six years ago, Tom Cruise was experiencing a transformation of sorts. During the 80’s and 90’s he was a respected actor but the first decade of the new millennium saw him drenched in controversy with his personal life and his connections to Scientology. But between 2011 and 2012, Cruise began the work to turn his rocky identity into a brand name for solid action flicks. The Mission: Impossible films were good again, and people loved the hell out of a surprise hit called Jack Reacher in 2012. Playing as the eponymous ex-military hobo badass, Cruise propelled a something that was expected to gain limited appeal and ended up making the studio a LOT of money. So of course a sequel was greenlit, and to up the ante they decide to…oh shit, we’re in New Orleans? We got a director known more for producing than actually directing a quality film? And we got a cheap screenwriter? Dammit Hollywood, stop cutting budgets in favor of marketing!

So yeah, the movie’s a bit of mess (though to be fair, the first one was a bit clunky too) as we see Reacher doing his usual shtick of hitchhiking from town to town, righting wrongs, saying badass lines, and politely telling ladies he’ll be fucking them in his motel room where he’ll just wait for them. He’s basically Captain Awesome you guys. Anyways, after tipping the U.S. military police to some corruption, he strikes up a potential romantic interest in Colbie Smulders as a Major in Jack’s old base. When he arrives to meet her, he’s instead told that she’s been arrested for espionage. Doubting her treason (and hellbent on getting laid), Jack starts snooping around and finds himself embroiled in an international conspiracy from Afghanistan to New Orleans. Oh yeah, and the conspirators try to throw him off their tracks by threatening his daughter…the one he never he even had.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
“A daughter? What’s her mom’s name? Actually scratch that, you’re gonna need to specify if we banged behind a liquor store or a dumpster or a Fudruckers or…”

The plot’s a bit…dumb. I’m not sure if this movie is straight up adaptation of the original book or whether the filmmakers took a bunch of Jack Reacher novels and mashed them together to make this movie. Because the movie keeps throwing plot threads at you that begin and go nowhere fast. Look throwing a character into a web of espionage is all well and good, but to toss in on top of that a romantic subplot that goes nowhere as well as a subplot into a murder investigation and THEN staple an irrelevant plot line involving someone’s daughter…you have a big freaking mess of a movie.

This is something I should have gone into more detail with Batman v. Superman, but putting tangential subplots that don’t serve the characters or the main plot is just a profound waste of time and money. For this Jack Reacher movie, we’ve only got one B-story that connects to the villain’s master plan in any way, while the others don’t serve the main plot or even serve Reacher as a character. Now don’t get me wrong, I GET what Reacher is supposed to be: he’s going down the road weathered by James Bond and Richard Stark’s Parker, the lone badass globetrotting and kicking ass while saying dropping one liners. That’s cool, I’m down. But if you’re going to feature subplots about your badass’ past, you have to be really careful or it just comes across as hokey.

Funny enough, Bond presented the good and the bad of this with Skyfall and Spectre respectively. Skyfall worked so damn well because allusions to why Bond does what he does is in kept in the background, leaving you to draw your own conclusions if you wish; but if you don’t, you still have this kickass action movie featuring this ultimate spy vs spy battle. Contrarily, if you go TOO much into your badass’ past and connect it to the main plot heavily like in Spectre, then you have a movie where you’re scratching your head wondering how the hell is that supposed to make any damn sense at all. Unfortunately, Never Go Back falls into the Spectre trap with this bizarre subplot featuring Reacher’s neglected daughter.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
“The hell are we running from?” “Child support…”

Aside from making your main character more despicable by painting Reacher as a deadbeat dad (apparently no one learned any lessons from Superman Returns), the daughter is annoying as fuck. I’m not saying the actress is bad, I’m saying she makes every stupid ass decision you could possibly make when in a dangerous situation because she’s portrayed as an absolute whiny brat.

When she’s got a dangerous hitman on behalf of the government going after her, Reacher saves his supposed daughter and demands her cell phone to avoid tracking. She tells him she doesn’t have one, but two scenes later she’s texting with her fucking friends about irrelevant shit. It’d be one thing if she didn’t trust Reacher and she was trying to find someone to help her, but no she’s acting like a spoiled little shit who just want to ‘gram all her drawings yo’. Goddamn old people, I know you hate millenials but most of us have a degree of survival instinct; you don’t have to write us like a pack of morons for fuck’s sake.

As for Tom Cruise as Reacher himself, I’ve got no opinion of him good or bad. He’s fine I suppose, which is technically not great since he’s supposed to be the biggest, baddest motherfucker of all time. But this is a critique leveled at the writing which is just insipid, Cruise is acting much better than his material can muster. Hell, even his costar Smulders gets to showcase some charisma of her own. But this movie is severely wasting both of their talents.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
“I literally do all of my own stunts, I can’t believe Keanu Fucking Reeves of all people is going to outshine ME for action!”

Which is a shame because you can tell Cruise has passion for this character with a unique code of honor, but he’s got an absolutely lazy director giving bad calls around him. The action in this action movie is just plain boring. Nothing interesting is on display, you don’t get cool fight scenes like you did in the first movie and you get pretty boring chases. All leading to a final confrontation that just feels absolutely limp for two reasons. First, the mastermind pulling the strings on the whole scheme reveals himself to our heroes in the last ten minutes so you don’t give a crap what or why he was doing what he was doing. Secondly, Cruise has a very clumsy fight with head killer working for the villain that just feels so…flat. It made me think the final fight in Jason Bourne wasn’t THAT bad, and that’s one of the worst sins a film can commit for me.

Granted, Cruise’s charisma shines through and manages to elevate this dreck into something halfway watchable because he’s clearly having fun playing this character. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in catching this on Redbook or HBO, so I’d wait for this as a…

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