To date, there are twenty Jack Reacher thriller novels on the market. That’s more than enough stories upon which to build a movie franchise, and back in 2012, when Tom Cruise first became Jack Reacher, that’s exactly what Paramount intended to happen. But the idea was scrapped, or at least, put on hold. Box-office return wasn’t quite what the studio had hoped for. Then the film hit big overseas, and the idea of a potential sequel was re-opened.
In truth, the generically titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back isn’t really a sequel. No one ever considered From Russia With Love or Goldfinger sequels to Dr. No, they were more adventures with the same central character, and so it is with Jack Reacher; a further adventure in the life of a loner who has a talent for looking after himself really well.
In this second outing based on British author Lee Child’s book, Reacher is sitting quietly late one night in a southern state diner sipping coffee, waiting for the sheriff to arrive. With relative ease, he’s just dispatched a whole gang of men outside in the parking lot, and the sheriff won’t be pleased. It all has something to with the abuse and slavery of south-of-the-border immigrants, and somehow the sheriff is involved. “One guy took ‘em out in, like, seconds,” states an amused on-looker as the southern lawman arrives.
“In the next ninety seconds, two things are going to happen,” a calm Reacher explains to the bemused sheriff in the diner once the lawman has cuffed the lone stranger. “That phone is going to ring and you’ll be wearing these handcuffs.” And, of course, that’s exactly what happens. “Who the hell are you?” asks the sheriff upon realizing he’s cornered and about to be arrested by the local police. “The guy you didn’t count on,” responds Reacher.
None of that has anything to do with movie’s plot, but for those who have never read the books or have forgotten what Jack Reacher can do, it’s a good reminder, plus it’s a fun opening. Reacher is one of those fantasy guys that other guys wish they could be – a powerful, no-nonsense force of nature, and that’s what makes such an unlikely figure so appealing. In the book, author Child describes Reacher as being 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing somewhere between 210 to 250 pounds and having a 50 inch chest. He has a six-pack like a cobbled city street, and biceps like basketballs. In the film he’s played by Tom Cruise.
Once a former Major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, Reacher now is his own man. There’s no address and no way of contacting him. If he wants something, he’ll contact you. He wanders across the country, hitch-hiking, taking odd jobs when he needs to, taking breaks when he wants. Asked why he left the military, he answers, “Woke up one morning and the uniform didn’t fit.”
In Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the loner becomes embroiled in an espionage affair relating to someone from his old military unit, someone he liked. Major Susan Turner (a suitably tough and athletic looking Cobie Smulders) has been arrested, and Jack’s instinct, judge of character, and his old M.P investigative abilities immediately kick in. Clearly something’s wrong; Major Turner was framed. Swiftly springing her from military prison moments before a hired hitman known as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) is about to permanently silence the major, Reacher and the woman hit the road running.
The thing about this second Edward Zwick directed installment is there’s nothing particularly special or extraordinary about it. Like the book, it’s a competent enough, fast-paced thriller. There’s even a little detective guess work involved as Reacher and the fugitive major, aided on the road by a street-wise fifteen year-old (Danika Yarosh), attempt to piece together exactly why they’re being chased and whether there’s corruption in the Army, and if so, how deep does it go, but there’s nothing about it that feels cinematically memorable. No widescreen wow factor.
Like a page-turner reminiscent of an Alistair Maclean adventure – a quick read that once completed joins the pile of other paperbacks in the corner and is quickly forgotten as you start the next one – you’ll enjoy the various chases, well choreographed fights, last minute escapes and the gunplay, but once it’s done and you leave the theatre, there isn’t much to talk about. It’s all surprisingly routine.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 118 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)