Going into I kept wondering why the movie even existed. Tom Cruise already has a successful action adventure series with the Mission: Impossible movies, is Jack Reacher so different that it warrants an entire franchise of its own? Being that I have seen the first Jack Reacher movie, and can't remember a thing about it, but have seen all the Mission: Impossible movies and can tell you at least one memorable thing about each of them, the answer seemed to be a firm no.
But it turns out there is a big difference between the two franchises! Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is boring, drab, and completely lacking in any of the fun, silliness, and excitement inherent in a Mission: Impossible movie.
Jack Reacher is an ex-Army major who basically wanders around the country, offering up his battle skills where they're needed. In the movie's opening he's just laid waste to a host of bad guys in a diner parking lot, all of them involved in some kind of human trafficking ring. That done, he pops his thumb and hitchhikes his way back to Washington D.C. where he hopes to finally meet Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), the person who's been sending him on these underground cases, but whom he's never actually met face to face. Upon his arrival in D.C. he learns Major Turner has been arrested for espionage, which Reacher knows is bullshit.
Oh, and he also might have a teenager daughter he never knew about.
Just why that revelation is included in a file about Major Turner's case is never made completely clear. What is clear is that the addition of the teenage Sam (Danika Yarosh) is about as necessary as the addition of any Scrappy Doo or Poochie-type character tends to be. It's not going to get the teens interested and it's just going to annoy everyone else.
Adding a child to the mix is a calculated move to give the character some heart, but it doesn't work, and every moment that's supposed to be about Reacher finally caring for someone is so cringe-inducing, it gave me a neck ache.
The majority of the movie follows Reacher, Sam, and Major Turner on the run from the bad guys, from D.C. to New Orleans, and this is where the major difference between the Reacher and M:I movies reveals itself. There are no elaborate stunts, exotic foreign locales, or clever gadgets and disguises to keep us entertained throughout Never Go Back. The closest it gets to anything visually exciting it a chase scene through a French Quarter Halloween parade. Instead, the majority of the movie takes place in grim motel rooms, crumbling warehouses, and a completely unrealistic airplane set. (Also, the entire sequence involving a flight from D.C. to New Orleans is so preposterous, it elicited some incredulous snickers from the audience.)
A Tom Cruise movie always comes with a lot of baggage, specifically, Tom Cruise himself. But when he's in a good movie, I can sometimes get past that, and recognize what made him a star in the first place. He's usually at his best when he's a combination of heroic and fumbling; think, him chasing his own eyeballs down a hallway in Minority Report. There are few classic Cruise moments in Never Go Back, like when he sasses back to his former bosses, or when he punches through a car window into the face of its driver. But for the most part this Jack Reacher is so stoic, he might as well be an ass-kicking robot.
There is one redeeming aspect of Never Go Back, and that's Cobie Smulders as Major Turner. About 90 minutes into the movie, as she was strangling a bad guy with a garden hose, I realized, this is all I want! A rogue female Army Major, traveling the country and kicking some ass. We don't need another Jack Reacher movie; we need a Major Turner movie. And if they get started now, they just might be able to release it in time for Hillary's second year in office.Jack Reacher: Never Go Back