Movie Review: 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' (2016)

Having watched and enjoyed the original “Jack Reacher,” expectations for its sequel were measured, albeit heightened. As long as “Never Go Back” executed the first film’s fantastic formula, those expectations would be met.

Sadly, none of those hopes are realized in its underwhelming follow-up, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” As it is now, there seems to be an inherent law that when an action film, which originally featured a strong central protagonist (i.e. a formidable combatant and detective) returns for the sequel, he is rendered neither.

Such is the case for “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” which opens with its titular character sitting in a diner waiting for the police to arrive, having torn through a bevy of assailants, off-camera. After reciting some lines that recall the ones Nicolas Cage utters in the vastly underrated “Lord of War,” Jack returns to the front lines of his fight against corruption.

Unlike its predecessor, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” does not feature any mystery, or double crosses. The plot is mapped out neatly with our heroes and bad guys, rather obvious from the start. A central villain is hard to come by, though they arrive in enough time for our heroes to have a final face-off.

[Image by Paramount Pictures]
When “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is not going back to the well of overused plot devices, it is entertaining. What drags it down is its insistent use of tired clichรฉs from every other movie of its kind.

When it could have utilized the brilliant template performed to perfection in its original outing. Among the haggard plot points are a sassy teenager, who knows more than any adult, teaching Jack (Tom Cruise) the value of potential parenthood, and everything else. 

The teenager-knows-more-than-adults motif has already worn out its welcome in various other genres, and in a movie aimed at adults; it is a theme that is entirely out of place in “Never Go Back.” Jack Reacher is not a babysitter, who gets smart-mouthed by a know-it-all teen. He is a modern warrior/detective.

While its predecessor offered viewers stylistic action sequences, a strong central villain, and an engaging mystery arc, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” fails to achieve any of these objectives. And despite having the title role, Jack Reacher like Mad Max before him takes a back seat to every other character in the movie, his presence waning for scenes at a time.

[Image by Paramount Pictures]
To its credit, the cast led by Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders, give commendable performances. While its other qualities have dampened, Cruise remains just as charismatic and likable as Reacher in his second go-around, and Smulders is believable as the tough-as-nails, Major Susan Turner. 

The problem is nothing about Susan stands out as a character because she is written like every other female protagonist currently populating the action adventure genre. She is a combative and angry heroine. A cliche the recent “Underworld” proved is not necessary to have a "strong" female lead. 

“Never Go Back” should have gone back to what made the original great. It should not have dissolved into a chorus line of similar fare. The first “Jack Reacher” depicted a capable man of mystery, who could single-highhandedly makes things happen amid the story’s crime thriller backbone. 

That characterization is long-gone in this frustrating sequel. Instead of building on the solid foundation built by its predecessor, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” commits one of the most grievous of movie sins, failing to "reach" expectations. Rating: 5/10

[Featured Image by Paramount Pictures]