This week, I had the chance to experience a new type of Dolby theater at AMC for an advanced screening of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, ” and when the comfortable, vibrating recliner seats and the cutting-edge sound and visuals are more exciting than the movie itself, you know something’s not right. Starring Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge and Robert Knepper, the follow up to 2012’s “Jack Reacher” is an action-packed thriller that like many sequels has its appealing moments but ultimately fails to exceed or even recreate the quality of the original film.
A former Major in the U. S. Army Military Police Corps, Jack Reacher (Cruise) is an expert at solving problems, investigating suspicious and dangerous situations and taking down criminals. In the sequel, set four years after the first film, Reacher returns to his old military unit to find out an Army Major friend has been accused and imprisoned on a charge of treason. Major Susan Turner (Smulders) believes she has been framed, so naturally Reacher gets involved.
After breaking her out of military jail, Reacher and Turner go on the run from the police in order to prove her innocence and quickly find themselves caught in the middle of a serious government conspiracy that involves the death of U. S. soldiers and the sale and smuggling of weapons and drugs by military personnel. To make matters worse, Reacher finds out he may have a teenage daughter, who is quickly targeted by the people behind the conspiracy. Far from a perfect father or role model for that matter, Reacher must protect his “daughter” while clearing both his and Turner’s names.
Like many sequels, the quality of this film appears to be downgraded from the first one. In the original, the cast had quite the star power, from Cruise, to Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, David Oyelowo and Robert Duvall. In “Jack Reacher 2, ” Cruise fills the title character role again, but other recognizable actors are scarce, which include Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”), Robert Knepper (“Prison Break”), Holt McCallany, and Aldis Hodge.
The overall plot and action were mediocre at best in the first film but are even more formulaic and less than average in the sequel. While the first film has a decently thrilling narrative with a few twists, this one feels predictable and slightly uninteresting. As a fan of action movies, I did enjoy the action scenes in both films, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen in Cruise’s “Mission Impossible” movies, and these scenes feel less frequent in the sequel. The action or fighting style is reminiscent of a “Jason Bourne” movie, with fast paced, violent hand-to-hand combat and the occasional gun battle.
Another aspect of both films that seems to be a common theme of the occasional action-thriller is a refreshing level of humor throughout. It’s not necessarily in the form of deliberate comedy or jokes per say, but more so a sarcastic phrase, reaction or comment, and the way Reacher takes down a criminal with ease, whether in a fight or through other means, just makes you smile. An example of this can be seen in the trailer when police are trying to arrest Reacher, but Reacher tells them that soon enough the policeman will be the one wearing handcuffs (because of something he’s done wrong), and before you know it, this comes true.
This movie is loosely based on a 2013 children’s book, Never Go Back, which is the eighteenth book in a series of novels by Lee Child, involving the Jack Reacher character. The original intent was to use the character in a number of films, toys, video games, etc., but after the first film had a dull performance at the North American box office, a sequel was unlikely. As the original film continued to make a profit, the idea of a sequel became more likely until it was finally green lit in 2013.
If you have nothing better to do, have seen every other movie out there and enjoy action thrillers, then by all means check out “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. ” But perhaps it may be better to wait until it comes on DVD or Netflix, as there are much better films to waste a ticket on.
Rated 2 out of 5 stars.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements. Running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt. Enjoy the movies!