Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Review (** 1/2)

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While 2012’s Jack Reacher may not have been the sturdiest action vehicle for the spry Tom Cruise, it was nevertheless a moderately entertaining hard-boiled genre flick that benefited from a stacked supporting cast and somewhat idiosyncratic tone. Sadly, almost everything that made the original work is jettisoned in what’s surely one of the most generic movies to hit screens all year.

Reacher (Cruise) is planning to meet up with his long-distance colleague Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), but upon arriving at her base, discovers that she’s been arrested on suspicion of espionage. Reacher, unable to abide an injustice pass him by, breaks Turner out of jail and heads on the lam with her to clear her name by any means necessary.

From the plotting through to the filmmaking style itself, Never Go Back rarely rises above watchable because it’s so clearly content to cast on genre formula, almost to the point of self-parody given some of the ludicrously rote one-liners fielded out by various characters.

The prevailing reason the movie never deigns to be outright bad is because Cruise and Smulders have entertaining chemistry, and there’s a relatively feminist tone cutting through the film that helps the pairing avoid the usual love-in cliches. All the same, the pair forms a nuclear family of sorts with Samantha (Danika Yarosh), a 15-year-old girl with a pivotal role in this story, which very occasionally has its moments, especially when the catty young lady shuts out Reacher in favour of “girl time” with Susan.

Still, it’s ultimately a movie not merely unambitious but also utterly uninteresting for the majority; the villains are dull and forgettable (Robert Knepper shows up for barely five minutes in a non-role), the usually reliable Edward Zwick can’t muster much enthusiasm for the brief action sequences, and there’s a woefully misguided soap opera subplot injected into the middle of the film that essentially just acts as padding.

Fans of watching Tom Cruise run for his life will at least get to savour five separate sequences of him high-tailing it, but for all the slick, stylish fun the first movie was, Never Go Back is an incredulously empty, if never less than passable, effort that feels like a hugely wasted opportunity. Given how excellent Cruise normally is at picking projects, he must’ve been sleepwalking when he gave this piecemeal script the nod.

While not a painful experience, the second Jack Reacher is an incredibly milquetoast effort that takes zero risks and cribs straight from the spy thriller notebook. In short, save it for Netflix.

** 1/2

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is in cinemas now

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