Tom Cruise probably needs another franchise like he needs a third foot. Nevertheless, here he is in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” the sequel to the 2012 movie that was so awful it hurt.
Now he’s back (even though the second half of the title says not to) as the titular ex-U.S. Marine who, among other things, can outrun Olympic sprinters, dive off hotel roofs and dodge machine gun rounds. By way of saying hello, he likes to ram a fist into a guy’s face through a car window.
Jack Reacher’s other salient trait is an embrace of minimalism: He has no car, no house and no problem wearing the same clothes for five straight days. All this is a bad fit for Tom Cruise, whose whole persona screams Barneys suits and Lamborghinis.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||118 mins|
Speaking of which, in the original novels by Lee Childs, Reacher is a towering giant weighing over 100 kilograms. This should have been just as weirdly contradictory for Cruise, but somehow he carries it off — the very compactness of Cruise’s Reacher is what makes him a little interesting.
Still, if you think of “Jack Reacher” as a stopgap for Cruise fans waiting for the next installment from the “Mission Impossible” franchise — Cruise’s most lucrative role — the package starts to make a little sense.
Mind you, the unsmiling, ungracious, completely unfunny Reacher doesn’t have a fraction of the personal charm of Ethan Hunt. But as one of a dying breed — an action dude from the old school — he deserves a measure of our understanding and sympathy … kind of.
Besides, he’s nice to women. The first sequence has Reacher saving some Asian girls from sex traffickers, and seeing that the corrupt local sheriff gets what’s coming to him.
When that’s out of the way, he starts a long-distance flirtation with Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), the major in charge of Reacher’s old marine unit, over the phone. When he goes to Washington, D.C., to pay her a visit, however, it turns out she’s been arrested on espionage charges.
In a flash, Reacher decides to spring Susan from prison, and in the process becomes a fugitive who is then charged with murder. While all this is unfolding Reacher learns that he may have a 15-year old daughter (Danika Yarosh) he never knew about. From this point on, “Never Go Back” takes on the unmistakable patina of “Taken” and lazes about in that micro-universe like a boyfriend after a CrossFit workout.
Much more watchable is Susan Turner, who looks like she runs ultra-marathons when not on active duty. Interestingly, she gets a lot of close-ups compared to Reacher, and gets to say more lines, which rarely happens in hyper-traditional action movies like this one. (In fact, she calls him a dick to his face at least twice.)
The daughter, Samantha, fares less well: Rarely getting the chance to function as an individual, she’s deployed as an excuse for Reacher to rack up a body count in the name of protecting her.
With two women on his arm, Reacher (contrary to his name) makes no attempt to reach out or connect with anyone. Most damaging of all, an icy tundra of indifference seems to lie between Susan and Reacher, a veritable stretch of Siberia where not a single thing can grow. There’s a lone scene of her being a little relaxed on a motel bed in a bra and military pants, but judging from the effect that has on Reacher, she may as well be encased in armor.
That leaves the villain (Patrick Heusinger), who manages to ignite some sparks in the hero, but all that means is a lot of ripping each other limb from limb with their bare hands.
And then the story winds down, the ride is over and we’re left blinking in the half-dark, wondering why he ever went back in the first place.
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