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edge staff writer


Cruise's 'Jack Reacher' exceeds his grasp

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Action sequel 'Never Go Back' never goes anywhere

There aren't many movie stars anymore.

As the cinematic world has evolved, the box office A-list seems to have shrunk considerably. The biggest movies have become events in which the identities of the actors scarcely matter. The 'who' isn't as important as the 'what' and 'what's next?' anymore.

Yet Tom Cruise soldiers on. He's one of the very few remaining who retain true movie star power, a guy about whom 'he can open a movie' can be said without irony or hyperbole. But not even a star of Cruise's wattage can do the impossible (you know, unless he's doing a 'Mission: Impossible,' obviously).

Which brings us to 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.'

This is Cruise's second dalliance with Jack Reacher, the star of a series of wildly popular crime novels by Lee Child. It's the sort of force-of-nature hero that Cruise loves to play, but the unfortunate truth is that the sequel even more than the decent but uneven first film heaps the engagement burden almost entirely on Cruise's shoulders. And this time, the weight sometimes proves too much for him.

Jack Reacher is doing his Jack Reacher thing, drifting from place to place and righting wrongs in his hardass badass way and generally walking the earth like Cain from 'Kung Fu.' The only constants in his travels are the regular check-ins with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders, 'The Intervention'), the current commanding officer of his old military police unit. But when he finally makes his way to Washington, D.C. to see her in person, he encounters a Colonel Morgan (Holt McCallany, 'Sully'). Major Turner has been arrested and is to be charged with espionage.

This being Jack Reacher's world, it is of course a good deal more complicated than that. Reacher determines to prove Turner's innocence, but he soon realizes that a shadowy arms contractor called Parasource is somehow involved including a mysterious unnamed assassin-type (Patrick Heusinger, 'A Beautiful Now') who aims to out-Reacher Reacher. Also in the mix? A teenaged girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh, TV's 'Heroes Reborn') who may or may not be Jack Reacher's daughter.

Reacher is used to being the hunter, but now he is the hunted. He's left with nothing but his skills and a scant few he can trust; that's all he has at his disposal with which to save the day. It goes about how you'd expect it to go.

Full disclosure: I really like Tom Cruise movies. Sure, there's an underlying cornball current to what he does, but he's undeniably good at what he does. I also appreciate his pathological need to please it's always fun to wonder which dangerous stunts he convinced the director to let him do himself. Dude makes a heck of an action movie.


Don't get me wrong there's lots of running and shooting and shouting and exploding in 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.' And Cruise is there, managing to charm even while sporting his nigh-constant Jack Reacher tough-guy glower. But it isn't enough there's a baseline formulaic feel to the film that never allows it to come off as anything other than derivative.

The story is lazy, helping itself to narrative jumps whenever it's convenient and rendering some moments ridiculous (and not in the good action movie way). It all manages to come off as simultaneously convoluted and simplistic no easy feat. Motivations behind actions swing hither on yon without warning - sometimes in the course of a single scene and a lot of supposedly intelligent people do some absolutely idiotic things.

Cruise does his best, but he gives the impression of someone who is trying to remember a bit of direction given to him immediately before the camera started rolling. He's distracted, which in turn distracts us he's way better than this. Smulders is fine she tends to be good in action fare but her role feels like placeholder plot device that never really got developed. Yarosh is pretty good as well; the teenager performances in this kind of movie can be terrible, but she's solid. The bad guys are all generic bad guys; they're person-shaped blobs of conspiratorial evil. The only even vaguely distinct one is Heusinger, but even he is little more than a villainous cipher.

It's not all bad; viewed on their own, some of the action set pieces and fight scenes work pretty well, and even a distracted Cruise can be entertaining to watch, particularly in a role where he gets to play tough. There are a handful of actually funny moments and a couple of ridiculous cringe-funny moments to go along with the shooting and the solving and the sploding.

But it's not enough.

The reality is that the title of 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' is offering a sincere warning to audiences everywhere.

Never go back.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:31


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