Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Zach Galifianakis’ unfunny “Masterminds” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s a bit of a letdown when the coolest part of a movie is almost entirely in the trailer. What made me pumped for the sequel to the not great, but well-made 2012 movie “Jack Reacher” was the preview. In it we see Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) telling a crooked sheriff (Jason Douglas)—there to arrest Reacher for a brawl we don’t see—that in 90 seconds he will receive a phone call, and it’s the sheriff who will be wearing the cuffs. Cut to that very thing happening. So cool. It’s also the opening of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” While the rest of the movie pales in comparison to the opening, it is still a worthwhile watch. Plus in fairness, that prologue is a hard act to follow.

The person on the other end of the phone is Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). Turns out she and Jack have a bit of a history exposing lies and corruption from coast to coast. Even though they’ve never met, there is a connection between them, along with a bit of flirty banter. They can’t take it anymore and decide to meet at her office at the headquarters of Jack’s old U.S. Army Military Police unit.

Jack should have taken the advice of this movie’s subtitle and never gone back, because it is nothing but bad news for him. There he finds Turner in custody on suspicion of espionage and a man named Col. Morgan (Holt McCallany) in her office. He meets another colonel named Moorcroft (Robert Caprini), set to represent Turner in her defense, and from him Reacher finds out about a paternity suit filed against him and that he may have a daughter named Samantha. He’s also being watched by a mysterious man known as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger). As if that isn’t enough, Jack finds himself arrested shortly after Moorcroft turns up dead for speaking to Jack. Poor guy. All he wanted was to go out for some drinks and get to know someone.

Who could blame him either? Even a lone wolf type like Jack Reacher needs some human connection every once in a while. He gets more than he bargained for with Samantha (Danika Yarosh). This is where the trope of the tough guy saddled with a kid comes into play. I groaned when I saw that the movie was going in this direction, because I’ve seen it done so poorly before. The kids in these movies are invariably annoying and precocious, and they are nowhere near as cute or funny as movies want them to be. Having said that, “Jack Reacher: Never Go back” is one of the more successful purveyors of this particular plot device. That’s not to say that Samantha doesn’t have her moments where you just want to jump through the screen and shake her silly, but she holds her own as a sometimes useful and not too intrusive part of the team of her, Reacher, and Turner.

Which brings up Turner and Reacher. They get on each other’s nerves at times, as couples in these situations would do, but what’s missing is the underlying spark between them. Perhaps this is to keep Reacher at a distance to maintain his one man independence, but it’s not all him—she’s a bit of a cold fish herself. I had a hard time investing in the relationship between Turner and Reacher knowing that it is just a matter of practicality that they are put together. There’s really no driving emotional force underneath the circumstances they are in. They’re essentially just on a mission, and that’s it. Shame too, because the opening sets us up for something magical to potentially happen. Bits of awkward dialogue here and there don’t help either.

But who goes to a Tom Cruise “Jack Reacher” movie for the witty repartee and romance? Not me. I go for the chases, the fights, and a story that is at least competently told. While “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” isn’t perfect, it is at least that. Rent it.

Also New This Week


“Masterminds” has got to be one of the meanest movies ever made. No, it’s not because of the content. There is nothing particularly mean that happens in the movie itself. It’s mean because at the end we discover that the main character of David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis, is a real person. Not only is he a real person, he acted as a consultant on the movie. Basically, this man acted as a consultant on a movie that mocks, ridicules, and demeans him at every turn for being stupid and gullible. It is clearly laughing at him—not with him. Let’s not even get into the pageboy haircut and ridiculous disguises.

I’m reminded of a story I heard that took place on the set of a bad alien abduction movie from 1989 called “Communion.” It’s based on a book by a man named Whitley Strieber, who claimed to have encounters with aliens while at a holiday home in the woods. Christopher Walken plays Strieber in the movie, and anyone unfortunate enough to have seen it knows that Walken plays it in a very coo-coo way. Reportedly, Strieber approached Walken about the performance and said to Walken that he made him come across as crazy, to which Walken replied, “If the shoe fits….” I can’t help but wonder if the real-life Ghantt was aware of anything like this during the filming of “Masterminds.” If he was, and if he did say something, the only conclusion I can draw is that Galifianakis and/or director Jared Hess had the same reaction that Walken had to Strieber. They make Ghantt out to be laughably buffoonish. Even for a silly comedy, he is too much of a cartoon.

“Masterminds” is based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo heist, one of the biggest in history. This movie tries to be a heist movie, a bumbling comedy, a romance, a detective story, and a bit of revenge movie all rolled into one. As the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Nothing in this movie works up to its full potential. First and foremost it wants to be a comedy. At that, I will admit that I chuckled here and there, but nothing really grabbed me and there were no big laughs.

Much like with the “Ghostbusters” rehash from earlier in 2016, the highlight of “Masterminds” is Kate McKinnon. Not only is she comically gifted, she also has a great talent for creating odd, interesting, and unique characters. She’s a bit like a female Johnny Depp, but for comedy. The scenes with her odd, frozen-faced character Jandice, along with her fake smile and creepy stalker girl line delivery, help her to stand out and rise above the painful, insulting, sub-mediocrity of “Masterminds.” However, her part is small and she is not even in the movie enough to make it worthwhile for her fans to sit through this trash. Everyone should just Skip it.

More New Releases: “Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween,” writer-director-star Tyler Perry indulges his cross dressing fetish yet again to bring us the latest Madea movie; and “The Queen of Katwe,” about a young girl from Uganda who trains to become a world chess champion, starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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