Somewhere in the inner void that is my mind, I remember what the first Jack Reacher movie was about, but I can’t seem to conjure up the memory. I remember being amused by it… and I think I remember Tom Cruise driving a speeding car backwards… but that’s about it (is that the right film?).
Needless to say, I was not asking for a Jack Reacher sequel. And when almost every reviewer I followed gave it a bad review, I decided I wasn’t going to watch it…
…And then a friend whose opinion I respect said that it was great.
So I went off to the theatre to discover who was wrong.
My friend. My friend was wrong.
If I was told to describe Jack Reacher: Never Go Back with one word, without thinking, I would have said “forced”. Because holy crap, the narrative and the character relationships were just that.
Jack Reacher as a character is just Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise with a slightly larger chip on his shoulder than usual. I mean, the movie tells me that Reacher is also an awesome former sergeant, but aside from everybody mentioning it, and aside from his ability to predict his enemy’s tactics before he fell into them (an ability that magically turned on and off whenever it suited the plot), there really wasn’t any organic character traits that arose from this history. Half the time, Cruise is your stereotypical grumpy jerk, and the other half, Cruise is your stereotypical uncharacterized leading protagonist.
Cobie Smulder does a slightly better job at differentiating herself than Cruise does, but not by much. The chemistry between the two is practically non-existent, and the reason for why Reacher is even interested in her in the first place was unclear. Like why in the world is Jack Reacher so interested in this women when he has never seen her face and has spoken to her like twice?
Is it because he likes strong women? Because the movie never points that out as a character trait.
Is it because he’s super lonely and can’t find a cuddle buddy? Well, the movie insinuates that he’s slept with a hooker before, so it makes me wonder why he’s going through all the trouble.
The only answer I can think of is that it was necessary for the plot to happen… which is basically the entire theme of the movie.
And holy crap, when the inevitable conflict transition happens between them, was it ever forced and unnecessary. Like they’re about to go find some guy they need for questioning, but only one of them can go because the other one needs to babysit the girl that’s tagging along with them. So Reacher says he’ll go, because he doesn’t know how to interact with the girl.
And then Smulder’s character goes, “What, and you think I would be a better babysitter? WHAT, IS IT BECAUSE I’M A WO-MAN!? UN-BE-LIEVABLE!”
<Spoiler> But anyway, Reacher goes out to find the guy while Smulder stays, and while he’s trying to find him, he gets tailed and eventually jumped by four men. Well, it’s a good thing Reacher went, because he actually has the skills to take down four men on his own… jeez. But then once he gets back, he apologizes to Smulder or something and says that she could have done just as good of a job trying to track the guy as he could have… well, if by doing just as good a job means getting the tar beaten out of you by four men, then yes. </Spoiler>
I did mention the girl that tagged along didn’t I? Yeah, so a side plot to this forced story is that Reacher apparently has some unknown child with an unknown woman, and he found this out because some guy informed him that the woman was filing for child support. And despite the fact that he says he’s never heard of this woman before, he goes and tracks his supposed daughter down and stalks her.
Why? I don’t know. Jack Reacher is never characterized as someone who cares about getting too involved with people. The only reason I can think of is because it was necessary for the plot, because some bad dude takes pictures of them while he’s stalking her, which necessitates the supposed daughter to be part of the plot for her own safety.
The girl who plays the mystery daughter was obnoxious, but considering the script was not all that great, and considering Cruise and Smulder are as generic as generic gets, I actually enjoyed the daughter character the most. At least what she says and does feels organic.
The bad guys in this movie were extremely uncompelling. The movie never does a good job at articulating why these guys were so evil, why it’s so important for them to be stopped, and why I should care.
They did, however, do a fantastic job at letting me know who was expendable in the story. Wanna know who was expendable? Wait for the parts where the bad guys do their job well. Wanna know who wasn’t expendable? Wait for the parts where they become laughably incompetent.
My favorite part with the main bad guy is when he’s on the phone with Jack Reacher, and he goes into monologue mode about how he and Reacher are former military men, and because of that, they are oh-so-damaged and all-they-know-is-killing and zzzzzzzzz….
So expository. So forced. This whole movie was forced.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was one of the most forced sequels in a year of forced sequels. If all you’re looking for is a hero-type beating up on some baddies, then this film provides the minimal amount for entertainment. If you’re looking for a movie with interesting, definable characters and a compelling story, then you will be utterly disappointed.