If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of Tom Cruise. I remember my father sitting me down when I was ten years old for my first time watching Top Gun (1986) only describing it as, “The ultimate guy movie.” I’ve been a huge fan of every Mission: Impossible installment and he’s inarguably the best part of Tropic Thunder (2008). I choose to ignore his religious beliefs because I don’t think it represents him at all, and that goes for most working actors with sort of “out there” belief systems (except Mel Gibson, that guy can jump off a bridge). I hadn’t seen the first Jack Reacher installment, so I did my homework before watching the sequel and I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Cruise was acceptable at best in it and while the plot twists were overall intriguing, the action was few and far between (not to mention horribly choreographed) and there wasn’t enough of Cruise sprinting for my liking. Needless to say, as a result, I wasn’t looking too forward to the sequel.
What blew my mind the most was after twenty minutes of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016), I knew exactly what was going to happen in this movie. Why? Because it was literally the exact same mediocre plot from the first one – only made with a few different ingredients and the same amount of mediocrity. In the first Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise plays the titular character who takes the responsibility of proving his friend’s innocence. Only this time around in the sequel, it’s his sort of pen pal, played by Cobie Smulders, who is framed for murder and if the film did a convincing job of getting me to believe the trained homeless killer and decorated military major could be lovers, I’d be on board.
Similar to Mission: Impossible (1996), I was confused a lot during the movie as random people showed up and were all of a sudden important. Only in MI, things made sense as new plot points and twists developed. In JRNGB, I was asking more and more questions and getting no answers. The action is certainly better in the sequel than it is in the original; but now instead of half decent twists and bad action, you get a terrible storyline and decent action. Oh, and there’s this girl who may or not be Reacher’s daughter that tags along throughout the movie and she is frustrating and pointless to no end. Does it sound like I’m jumping around a lot and disorienting to you? That’s how I felt for two hours.
I had a hard time figuring out if the actors in this movie got the script the day before cameras rolled or if they just didn’t like each other. Or maybe they just didn’t want to be in this movie. There is no chemistry between Tom Cruise or just about anybody and characters come in and out so quickly I don’t have enough time to decide if I like them or hate them. It was great to see Robert Knepper’s been getting work since Prison Break (2005-2009), but he’s barely in the movie and I was too focused on the fact that he had the exact same name as this guy I graduated high school with. The most disappointing performance, for me, was Smulders’. She was caught between trying to gauge Cruise’s demeanor while making sure she got her military terms down right so as not to offend any of the right wing viewers looking to get their fix of white washed military serenity. I’ll take any of Smulders’ performances in How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) over this any day of the week.
If you liked the first Jack Reacher, and you’re into spending money on a near identical copy of it, then you will maybe enjoy this sequel. If you’re looking for a good performance from Tom Cruise where he doesn’t mail it in, I recommend maybe any movie but this one starring Cruise. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back feels contradictory and backwards at its worst, and feels like a carbon copy of the original with maybe a little better action buried beneath these hallowed out performances and lackluster writing and a desperate attempt to make Reacher’s character seem human by MAYBE giving him a daughter. I fear there may be a third to come, due to there being a third book in the series by author Lee Child, and I really REALLY hope that doesn’t happen.