Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

In Films by Alex Moss Editor

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back suggests quite the foreboding outing for the one man army that is Jack. It also echoes a sentiment of star and producer Tom Cruise. Because over the course of his long and illustrious career Cruise has made a habit of only ever making sequels when it came to his Mission Impossible franchise. So does his second outing as Reacher ring true to its title or does Cruise have another smash hit franchise on his hands?

The film opens with a Bond like climax to a previous mission in which Reacher (Cruise) is helped out by the military police under the leadership of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). Heading to DC to thank Turner in person Cruise discovers that Turner has been arrested for treason and he’s thrown into custody for aiding her. Breaking out Cruise discovers he may have a fifteen year old daughter Sam (Danika Yarosh). With the trio on the run Reacher and Turner must figure out who is trying to frame them while staying ahead of a violent assassin (Patrick Heusinger).

The first Jack Reacher film, once people had forgiven the casting of Cruise as the blonde haired giant Reacher, was a wonderful slice of pulpish delight. Unfortunately Never Go Back lacks much of that film’s inventive and visceral energy. This outing feels distinctly like an effort to make Reacher more accessible to a wider audience. The Jason Bourne levels of action are removed in favour of a more clean-cut aesthetic.

As a result the plot, the who dunnit and why of the film, feel mundane. Reacher’s motives are shoehorned into the story rather than being at the centre. So while the first Reacher focused on the man himself, a lone gunman willing to put himself on the line for a man he knows to be a wrong’un, this one is more interested in seeing how Reacher plays with others. The answer, as we already know, is not well.

That being said after the rushed and clunky first act Never Go Back does begin to find a groove. This is in no small part thanks to the family dynamic between Cruise, Smulders and Yarosh. Their dysfunctional issues are a highlight. So much so that when the nonsense plot rears its head you’re left frustrated that the band has been broken up.

It’s easy to see why Cruise would be willing to return as Reacher. For the most part, with the occasional detour like Collateral, Cruise has always played clean-cut, if cocky, protagonists. Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt is rarely asked to do much other than look good dangling off something. Reacher meanwhile is a bonafide maverick. Cruise, as with the last film, is clearly relishing playing the brooding, ticking timebomb. Only occasionally does his armour drop in Never Back Down but it always feels as if he’s more likely to go all Hulk on someone than he is hug them. He is ably supported by Smulders who, while a little on the nose tough, refuses to be anything other than Reacher’s equal in the battlefield rather than his damsel in distress. Yarosh offers a certain heart and frustration for Reacher but her character is more of a plot device to motivate Reacher than anything else.

A tricky second album Jack Reacher: Never Back Down demonstrates there is still life in the franchise but needs to get back to his roots.