Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Edward Zwick
Stars: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Holt McCallany, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Robert Knepper, Jason Douglas, Madalyn Horcher, Robert Catrini.
Jack Reacher, a taciturn and hard as nails former military policeman who now wanders across America usually finding trouble in backwater towns, is the hero of a series of best selling novels written by British author Lee Child. In the books Reacher is described as being 6′ 7 inches tall and weighing about 250lbs. When it was first announced that Tom Cruise, who is only about 5’7, would be playing Reacher on the screen I, like many other fans of the series, was appalled and fairly outspoken about the casting choice. But when Jack Reacher hit the screens I was forced to bite my words, as it seemed to work. Book and film are two different mediums, and despite initial misgivings Cruise eventually owned the part convincingly. He had a physicality that suits the character and he acquitted himself well in the bruising action sequences.
Outside of the Mission: Impossible series though Cruise doesn’t normally do sequels. But in the Reacher series he seems to have found another potential long running franchise that could rival the Bond movies for longevity. And with 21 books in the series to date there is plenty of material to draw upon.
This brings us to Never Go Back, the second film in the Reacher franchise, which thankfully is as good as its 2012 predecessor, which had the vibe of a great action film from the 90s. It is actually base on the eighteenth book in the series, which was first published in 2013. The film actually begins with a sequence from the sixteenth novel as Reacher brings down a slimy corrupt small town sheriff who was involved in a people smuggling operation. During that adventure he had some assistance from one Major Susan Turner, who now occupies his former position in the 110th, Reacher’s old unit. She was just a voice on the phone to him, but with the mission successfully concluded he promises to visit Washington and take Turner out to dinner to thank her for her help.
When Reacher arrives in Washington though he discovers that Turner (played by Cobie Smulders, best known for her role in popular tv series How I Met Your Mother, etc) has been arrested and charged with treason. Despite being told that she doesn’t want his help, Reacher involves himself in the case to prove her innocence. Turner was investigating the death of two of her officers who were shot and killed in Afghanistan.
But there are obviously people within the military involved as well, and neither Reacher or Turner are sure who they can trust as they are forced on the run to try and clear their names. The trail leads to a conspiracy involving a Haliburton-like private military contracting company run by ex-military personnel like retired General Harkness (Robert Knepper, from tv’s Prison Break, etc). Reacher and Turner find themselves being hunted by a ruthlessly efficient killer known as the hunter (Patrick Heusinger), a former soldier who has a similar skill set to Reacher’s.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Reacher has been told that he may have fathered a daughter Samantha (newcomer Danika Yarosh), a strong and precocious street wise kid, who like Reacher, has little respect for authority. A loner and a maverick, Reacher has been saddled with two strong and strong willed women here which sets up an interesting dynamic. It also allows for some much needed humour, but it allows for Reacher to make an emotional connection with other people. And when Samantha is threatened Reacher taps into his nascent paternal instincts and is prepared to do anything to protect her.
Director Edward Swick has worked with Cruise before on The Last Samurai, and as he showed with films like Glory, Courage Under Fire and Blood Diamond he certainly knows how to stage action sequences. Never Go Back contains a couple of stand out action sequences, lots of frantic chases and shoot-outs. The fight scenes are superbly choreographed by stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, and shot in a fluid style.
Cruise is good as the indestructible Reacher and he has now settled comfortably into the role that plays to his strengths. He brings some nice touches of self-deprecating humour to the character. Cruise and Smulders are good together and they develop a great if somewhat prickly chemistry filled with some wonderful innuendo that heightens the sexual tension between them. Smulders makes for a refreshingly strong and competent female heroine here, capable of holding her own against the villainous henchmen and she easily establishes her action chops in a couple of sequences. Yarosh is great as the plucky teen who gives as good as she gets in the verbal stoushes with Reacher, and she has a great screen presence that suggests she will go far. Holt McCallany (Sully, etc) is good as the cliched corrupt colonel Morgan. Author Child himself pops up in a brief cameo as a TSA officer at the airport.
Cinematographer Oliver Wood (the first three films in the Bourne series, etc) makes good use of a range of locations, from the streets of Washington to New Orleans, and he brings a more gritty aesthetic to the visuals. He certainly knows how to shoot action scenes though.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is pure disposable escapist fare, an efficient and slickly staged but somewhat cliched and formulaic action vehicle that gives Cruise another screen franchise.