JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK
Starring Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh,
Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany
Based on the novel "Never Go Back" by Lee Child
Screenplay by Richard Wenk and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herkovitz
Directed by Edward Zwick
Reviewed by Paul and Patrick Gibbs
Out of Four
Before the screening of the new Jack Reacher sequel, we still heard people in the audience debating whether Tom Cruise was appropriately cast as author Lee Child's character, portrayed as a much larger man in the books. To us, the more pertinent question is what Cruise sees in this bland character from what is at best middling source material. We're just not on board with the wandering mix of John Rambo and Jessica Fletcher, whose special skill seems to be to inhabit a world in which everyone around him is a complete idiot. This is a character whose solution to every problem is a violent beating. We can imagine him potty training as a child:
"Are you gonna pee in the potty today, Jackie?"
"How about I rip off the seat and beat you to death with the potty?"
This time out, Reacher's travels have caused him to engage in along distance collaboration with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), the woman who has his old command. They engage in some mild telephone flirting, and since Reacher has nowhere in particular to go, apparently her voice is hot enough to drag him back to a place he seems to hate for the possibility of hooking up with her. But when Reacher gets to the base he finds that Turner has been accused of treason, and since this is the kind of thing Reacher does as he travels the country in his warped, ultra violent variation on Highway To Heaven, he gets involved in the matter. And since Cruise has spent much of the past 20 years doing veiled remakes of The Fugitive, he sees no reason to break with tradition and ends up wrongfully accused and the run with Turner.
As a director, Zwick does mostly solid (if unremarkable) work, creating one truly effective and memorable set piece in the climactic chase through what, as far as we could tell from the production design, was the annual New Orleans Munsterr, Go Home! Fan Convention. This movie quite a departure from Zwick's usual Oscar-bait liberal guilt dramas, and his heart doesn't seem to be in it, though he and his longtime writing partner Marshall Herkovitz spice up the mostly wooden (and occasionally audience insulting) dialogue with a few moments that are actually pretty good. While we don't think shifting gears to specialize in thrillers would be a good career direction for Zwick, he handles himself just fine, but we'd much rather have seen Cruise pull him in to the Mission: Impossible franchise.
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