Jack Reacher: Never Go Back **

Uninspired sequel goes through the motions and leaves much to be desired.

Is it worth $10? No

Everything about “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is too easy. Ex-soldier turned vagabond do-gooder Jack (Tom Cruise) knocks out bad guys with two punches, sometimes less. He gets himself and Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) out of a military prison without much resistance. He pieces together clues in no time just by thinking about them. He forms an instant bond with Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be his daughter. Heck, for a movie titled “Never Go Back” it sure is easy to get him back into military offices in D.C. – all it takes is the allure of dinner with Turner.

The point is, if everything feels like it’s on cruise control (pun intended), and there’s little in terms of hardship and adversity, then director Edward Zwick (“The Last Samurai”) isn’t giving the audience much to watch. This is a serviceable, average and unimpressive movie, the kind you bypass in theaters and catch on a random night at home when there’s nothing else to watch.

The plot, lazy and predictable and twist-less as it is, is not a direct sequel to the superior 2012 original. Turner and Reacher are framed for murder. Crooked military higher-ups believe Turner and Reacher know too much about black market dealings and need to be silenced. Tagging along as Turner and Reacher avoid authorities and beat up inept henchmen is 15 year-old Samantha, a teenage girl who acts like a teenage girl. The problem is a teenage girl doesn’t belong in this story. There’s no need for her – her contributions are minimal, and all she does is give Reacher one more thing to worry about. It’s not that Yarosh’s performance is bad, it’s that everything about the character is superfluous.

The script by Zwick, Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz is so inert the main bad guy (Patrick Heusinger) doesn’t even have a name. Perhaps this is how Lee Child’s novel on which the movie is based also depicts the villain – I don’t know. But I do know that a nameless enemy, though menacing, is less interesting, especially with no other personality quirks. Worse, the action is scant and mediocre. Car and foot chases strain for originality, and the fistfights are over quickly. The story may have some interesting moments, but they are too few.

The one thing the film gets right is the personality of Turner, who’s essentially a female Reacher. She’s tough, disciplined, and can hold her own with the bad guys. At one point she and Reacher argue about who’s going out to find information and who’s going to stay home with Samantha. Given how Tom Cruise-based the movie is (he’s also a producer), kudos to him for sharing the spotlight with a female, and to Smulders for playing it convincingly.

If only that were enough to make “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” worth seeing. It is not. But at least it’s a redeeming virtue in a picture that’s otherwise completely forgettable.

Did you know?
Aside from the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, this is the only sequel Tom Cruise has made.

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