There’s something old-fashioned about the “Jack Reacher” sequel “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It is a bare-knuckle action movie built around a single movie star that is competently directed and requires more than its share of suspension of disbelief.
These movies saw their heyday in the Stallone-Schwarzenegger era of the 1980s. You could release a fairly average version of one of these films back then and audiences would still eat them up.
Unfortunately for Jack Reacher, average doesn’t cut it in this day and age and this movie creaks under the weight of all of the explosions and car chases gone by.
To be fair, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is superior to the first film “Jack Reacher,” which was a bit of a goofy mess and the only thing that stood out about it was an oddball villain turn by German director Werner Herzog, which, let’s be honest, is bound to make any movie better by proxy.
The greatest strength and weakness of this series lies in its star. Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, a literary creation by author Lee Child, whose adventures have sold millions and millions of copies.
The character of Jack Reacher is a blunt instrument; a hulk of a man who pounds his way through adversity with little more than grit and determination on his side.
Cruise needs lifts in his shoes to stand eye-to-eye with his female co-stars, so he’s not exactly a physical match for the character.
What Cruise can bring to the table is movie star charisma and a whole lot of effort. Nobody works harder to entertain you than Tom Cruise. But, after all the running and punching, there’s just not that much there.
Director Edward Zwick adds some nice flourishes and does his best to keep the movie rolling past all of the plot holes.
The story is pretty standard stuff, as Reacher finds himself in the middle of a government conspiracy and on the run with what becomes a ramshackle family unit with hardnose Army Maj. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and juvenile delinquent Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh).
There’s not that much to get excited about here as this is essentially a CBS Sunday Night Movie featuring one of the biggest stars on the planet.
While I don’t believe the time has fully passed for Jack Reacher and his ilk, I do think you have to be something exceptional to stand out. The so-so effort of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” fails to clear that high bar. Mr. Cruise, I swear that’s not a short joke.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language, and thematic elements.