Darke Reviews | Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)


There are times I know I am glad I almost never read the books for the movies I watch. Take for instance Jack Reacher, the 2012 movie I consider a near perfect film in its craft. The mystery is solid, well paced, the action while limited is view able and visceral. The acting is top notch and it has one of the best openings to a film probably in the last decade. It probably deserves a review of it’s own and I may have to get to that; actually a little sad I didn’t have one already. But that’s the movie. People RAGED over the casting of Tom Cruise as someone who is by the book supposed to be a mountain of a man. I suppose if I was a fan of the character in that way I might be upset, actually I know I was when Vampire Diaries came out and some of the characters I liked were changed. So I get it, but without that baggage I went in to an unknown property that I didn’t know was based on a book at the time and really enjoyed it.

The question is does the Hollywood mandated sequel meet the bar?

The movie of course is based on the book Never Go Back by Lee Childs, to which I have no idea the accuracy of said material (beyond his size). It was then adapted under my three writer rule by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. Wenk has shown up in my reviews before as the writer of The Magnificent Seven and the Equalizer. He also was the writer on one of my favourite guilty pleasure vampire movies, Vamp. Herskovitz was a producer on the amazingly underrated The Last Samurai (also with Tom Cruise) and additionally working on the screenplay there. Leaving us with Edward Zwick, who was a writer on The Last Samurai, but also directed this movie. His directorial credits also include little films no one ever heard of such as the Civil War movie “Glory”, a little movie with Brad Pitt called Legends of the Fall, oh yeah and director of Blood Diamond and Last Samurai.

You may wonder why I go into this much detail on their prior works. I find it important as you can begin to see patterns in behaviors, styles of shots, dialogue, lighting, blocking everything. These guys have a pretty good pedigree. Which leaves me wondering what happened here? It has moments where the brilliance wants to shine. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is Ok. Good even, but its like diet low salt popcorn. Ultimately unsatisfying when it could have been so much more. The camera work, including some interestingly used Dutch angles, is ok. The mystery is ok. The…everything is ok. Why? Why is it just this? These guys have the skills to elevate it. Cruise is a producer, Christopher McQuarrie director of the superior first movie is a producer. There’s no excuse.

The story picks up with Jack Reacher (Cruise), former Military Police Major, doing his best A-Team impression drifting in and out of towns and uncovering things that offend his sense of justice and morals. He begins phone flirting with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) and is intent on meeting her. When he arrives he finds she’s been arrested on espionage charges. He also finds, that someone has filed a paternity suit against him while he’s been doing the drifting thing, and that he may have a 15 year old daughter (Danika Yarosh). She of course is drawn into the plot of murder, betrayal, and corruption as a potential pawn to use against Reacher.

This is just lazy. I mean I went to see an action crime thriller and ended up with what, the most awkward family outing? I mean it was a joy to see Reachers misogyny. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see him be “a mans man” a few times and just try to blunt force trauma his way through social situations. Every beat is neatly telegraphed or otherwise rehashed from the first movie. There’s flat out lazy filmmaking choices to ‘show us’ that Reacher has a good memory. Directorial choices make it so painfully obvious how he’s observing everything around him. It was absolutely aggravating because it should have been better.

The actors are fine, though it appears unlike the first movie someone added leg day back into Tom’s contract. I counted three scenes of him running, maybe 4. I stopped caring. This isn’t to say Cruise did a bad job. Quite the contrary, and despite my earlier protests, he’s fantastic. It is GOOD to see your hero has flaws. It is good to see your hero can be wounded. Even little things like his fingers twitching after the in media res diner scene. That’s what happens as you come down from a fight. It’s again what makes me think there’s a better movie that wanted to come out. Cobie Smulders (Avengers, How I Met Your Mother) is excellent. She matches Tom Cruise quite well and is absolutely believable in her role. I think there’s a long term action star here if she wants it. She did all she could do with the script she was given and more, which puts her a leg up on a lot of other actors as she was able to elevate a few scenes beyond how basic they were. She has good chemistry with Cruise as an actor even if the characters are in conflict. Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn) is also good. She’s honestly believable as kid who has been in and out of the system a few times and treads carefully the line of the stupid teenager by both script and directing. I repeat myself, the fact that her performance and character is as good as it is is in direct opposition to the overall emotion I felt at the end.

The fight sequences up to the climactic one are a hair too dependent on cuts and camera motion; a detractor. Just a few seconds longer, just a bit more stability and Just Ok fight sequence would have been good ones. The climactic one was pleasing even if the beat leading up to it was…*sigh* The action was GOOD, if you could see it. The fights were visceral and brutal and seeing the hero hurt was good, but they lacked something – at least until the climax. That one felt Excellent. Again…annoyance at what should and was trying to be better.

TL;DR

I had my hopes up for this one. That may have been a mistake. It was a simple paint by numbers action mover, with a lackluster mystery. Everything was just a few shades, a few beats, or few cuts from being really incredible but just ended up on the right side of mediocre.

I don’t hate the movie, I am just disappointed in it. I am disappointed in the director and writers who I’ve seen enough body of work to know what they are capable of and could have given something richer. I am annoyed by some very lazy choices in film making that are undeserving of what this should have been.

So what would you rate it?

Somewhere between an Ok and a Good. It’s serviceable and has enough moments of entertainment that it is absolutely watchable. I just found that there’s enough detractors that I couldn’t ignore despite wanting to. Audiences will find it ok and a lot of dudes will be going Reacher is a bad ass.

Should you see it?

If you’ve got a spare ten bucks and aren’t seeing the superior film The Accountant? Sure. Just matinee…or with Beer or something. But really go see The Accountant.

Will you buy it?

Eh probably? I just won’t be rushing out to get it or pre order it.

So you didn’t do the review a day after all?

No. Heart wasn’t in it. It’s also tiring. If you watch web reviewers, they generally limit themselves to once a week. It’s harder than it looks to do these and do them well. Giving every review for 31 days the right attention and credit is draining. I might do another run in the future. Maybe random ones. I do owe someone a review of either Dungeons and Dragons or the Core.

Next week, Inferno. Because I hate myself, but mostly so I can get a sense of Felicity Jones before Rogue One.

 

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