JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (2016)

Directed by Edward Zwick

Based on the novel “Never Go Back” by Lee Child

Screenplay written by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz

Starring Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh & Patrick Heusinger

Feature running time: 118 minutes

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GENERAL PLOT:

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever. (Source: IMDB)

THE GOOD:

Opening up with a great re-introduction back into the world of Jack Reacher for a second time, he’s back to his old tricks again dishing out his own brand of justice on the wretched souls that deserve it; always remaining one smart step ahead of the corrupt local authorities of any small American town he decides to wander into. Such a shame then that the rest of the film goes pretty much downhill from here on in. But I’ll get to all the bad points shortly, let’s focus on the very few merits it has first..

Directed by Edward Zwick this time who collaborated previously with Cruise on The last Samurai, he takes over the directorial reins from Christopher McQuarrie; the man responsible for bringing us a double Tom Cruise action whammy with the first Jack Reacher and last year’s fifth Mission Impossible outing entitled ‘Rogue Nation’. Zwick devotes less time in all the intense action, stunts and big explosions by favouring and indulging himself more into the elements of mystery and intrigue that also played a big part in its predecessor. This time around its a lot more intact and in full focus as Reacher gets to the bottom of the truth of a conspiracy he finds himself embroiled in, making himself and the ones closest to him number one targets.

Cruise feels a lot more in control of the character of Reacher for a second time, its a role that he’s clearly happy to return back to and has every intention in wanting to make another long time running franchise out of these Reacher novels. This film is actually based on the eighteenth novel of the series that bears the same title, every book is a completely separate story which gives film-makers a little bit more freedom in being able to adapt any book they choose if they feel the story works well enough. In this particular story, we get to find out more about Reacher’s past for those of you who are interested in finding out more about his back story and where he comes from. The plot also enables to give Reacher a whole new dynamic, teaming him up with two other strong alpha characters that happen to both be women. According to author Lee Child, he’s no longer a lone wolf in the sense that he’s now grouped with two other lone wolves and its about how these three get along while trying to solve the problem they find themselves in. This is something I really liked about Never Go Back as it shifts into a new direction where the entire movie really hones in on quite an intimate and tight knit close family unit formed within this unlikely trio.

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THE BAD:

Now for all the negatives. The main problem I had with it was not being able to help but feel that Zwick was perhaps the wrong choice of director, having taken a much more serious approach to the character and the story in general. McQuarrie was skilled enough in bringing to audiences such a great blend of action and comedy in the first film, unfortunately any comical or lighthearted moments were completely stripped away here, removing away any real sense of fun and enjoyment that the one before this clearly had. The overall tone just didn’t really sit well with me.

Speaking of action, this being a Jack Reacher movie of course it would come equipped with plenty of shootings and fights, but the action scenes that we do get, they come too quick and fast and are pretty much over just as I was really starting to enjoy it. Disappointingly, there are really no staged action set pieces that will really stand out to you or fail to stick in your mind. The first one was known for some really intense sequences such as looking at events from the villain’s POV as he assassinates his victims with a sniper rifle or a superbly choreographed unforgettable and destructive car chase. The sequel had none of these, failing to even match or surpass either, that again are what made the first so great.

The villains were probably the real letdown for me, proving to be nothing more than average and generic, they didn’t really offer anything new on to the plate and proved to be not much of a match for our main protagonist. We needed really better fleshed out villains, ones that are much more dangerous and unforgiving, killing without mercy. Sadly, these bad guys were pretty tame.

I honestly don’t think I liked the story overall. I loved not knowing about Jack Reacher, nor finding out much about his past, as McQuarrie had fun playing around with the idea that this character is an unknown and mysterious drifter, without carrying any I.D or document papers, making his personal life pretty much a blank page. So as we discover where he first trained and the other colleagues he worked with that we do in Never Go Back, it kind of really rubbed me the wrong way and removed a bit of the mystery from it. Which was a crying shame.

OVERALL VERDICT:

As someone who loved the first Jack Reacher film and became instantly hooked on Lee’s novels after only reading the first two in the series, I was really geared up for this sequel. It was just a crushing disappointment that the film didn’t turn out to be any more than average really.

If they really hope to turn this into another big franchise, which I hope they do;  whoever takes on the role as the next director needs to carefully pick the next story that fully restores Reacher’s status as the mysterious stranger that we all became intrigued by originally.

★★ 1/2

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