Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

It has been 13 years since Tom Cruise and director Edward Zwick worked together on The Last Samurai.

This creative team has been brought back together to deliver the latest instalment of the Jack Reacher franchise, reintroducing the retired military police officer who drifts through the countryside and administers his own form of justice.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has the drifter assisting Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) in an internal investigation into his former regiment and trying to determine why she has been framed for the murders of her own officers. This rag-tag investigation team must travel one step ahead of law enforcement and the illegal forces behind the murders to solve the case and clear their names. During their investigation, Reacher discovers a secret from his past that will effect the process and the eventual outcome of the case. This tangled web of action, intrigue and espionage will challenge all of his abilities in investigation and physical combat.

The first chapter of the Jack Reacher franchise met with mediocre response from audiences. For the fans of author Lee Child’s action hero, Tom Cruise failed to fill the shoes of the monstrous ex-military investigator. The film experienced slow acceptance and eventually garnered enough box office appeal to gain consideration for a sequel. As producer and lead actor, Cruise was able to recruit Zwick to direct this latest excursion providing some promise due to his strong directorial track record. The director, the huge fan base, and a proven franchise force in Tom Cruise points toward a winning combination. Yet, something went amiss. Being a quiet fan of the original film and the book series, the confidence for this new addition was quickly turned into frustration and disappointment.

In his bid to maintain the intense confidence of his alter ego, Cruise manages to overcompensate and conveys a nomadic feeling that conveys a level of boredom throughout the film. The action component was evident in his performance, but the script and direction fail to capitalise on his comedic ability. Also, much of the excessive nature of the violence went without justification. It is one thing to administer justice, but another thing for the lead character to lack a merciful side to his heavy hand. Cruise was left with a lead character that fails to connect with the audience on a human level or justifies his method of law. It could be said that the villain was poorly developed. The one-dimensional villain played by Patrick Heusinger (Black Swan) becomes so tiresome that the hope is that Reacher will finish him off half way through the film to diminish the pain of his poor performance.

Lee Childs has written Jack Reacher to be reclusive, but as someone who has charisma coming out of his pores. Also, that he has an uncanny ability to connect with people in need within any community he enters. This is a key misstep on Zwick’s interpretation of this anti-social hero, he fails to communicate this essential element with Reacher’s on-screen allies. This chemistry never materialises with Major Turner. From the beginning sequence, their relationship shows promise, but throughout multiple on-screen opportunities it does not come to fruition. It may not be a realistic expectation within the storyline and action, but the lack of sexual tension becomes exceptionally frustrating to observe.

With the successful continuation of the Mission: Impossible franchise in 2015, a Reacher franchise seemed to be a no brainer. The cast and production teams all point toward a winning combination, but it never manages to reach the heights that the famed actor has come to enjoy. If Jack Reacher: Never Go Back does manage to recoup its budget and the production team considers a third instalment, maybe a new lead would be worth considering to reignite this poorly implemented franchise.

Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

How can we trust that justice will be done?

One of the key themes of todays action films is the notion that we must take justice into our own hands. Law enforcement, the judicial system and even God seem to be questioned on their ability to handle the proper administration of justice. How can we know that justice will prevail in this world? Thankfully, despite the most desperate of situations there are answers to these questions and the role of righteous judge has been taken.

What does the Bible have to say about justice? Isaiah 30:18, Psalm 37:27-29, Luke 6:37, Romans 12:19

Watch the trailer

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.