‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ Review: Cruise Shouldn’t Have Gone Back

'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back'

Movie Rating:


‘Jack Reacher’ might have made buckets of cash a few Christmases ago because the Tom Cruise production starring Tom Cruise featured Tom Cruise beating up bad guys in Tom Cruisian fashion. However, it wasn’t very good. Nonetheless, money talks and bad movies walk, so ‘Jack Reacher’ made just enough to justify a thoroughly unnecessary sequel. Now it’s here and it stinks. With a little luck the title will come true and Cruise will indeed never go back to Jack Reacher.

Even in the first movie, Cruise was wildly miscast as Lee Child’s beloved giant drifter with a sense of justice. It was kind of hysterical to watch everyone seem frightened of the tiny, middle-aged movie star. The movie played mostly as an accidental comedy about Cruise’s outsized ego.

‘Jack Reacher 2: Macho Boogaloo’ is practically a parody of dated action movie ideals, only without any sense of the winking self-parody that even walking slabs like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone slipped into their beefcake B movies. Once again, Cruise portrays Jack Reacher, a folk hero of sorts who we’re supposed to consider iconic because we’re endlessly told that this guy is to be feared. This time, he finds himself wrapped up in some sort of vast conspiracy involving drugs and arms smuggling or something along those lines. It doesn’t really matter. This is one of those movies where bad guys do bad things because they are inherently evil and viewers are merely expected to accept the genre stupidity at face value because we’ve fallen for it before.

Anyhoo, Reacher is on the run and gets caught up in a dastardly plot so evil that the shadowy figure of moral fists of fury just can’t help himself from stopping. Along the way, he finds himself in a reluctant partnership with Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders, whose actual name is a better action heroine moniker). Since they’re forced to fight bad guys on the run together, they bicker and bond in ways that are supposed to feel like screwball romance but never really do. The jokes aren’t funny and the stars have zero chemistry. It’s like a 12-year-old boy’s version of movie romance, with all the icky stuff that would put off a prepubescent boy removed to allow more time for face pounding.

Not that there’s much in the way of decent action here. Director Edward Zwick (subbing in for Christopher McQuarrie, who at least had some sense of absurdity last time) is known for grand sweeping epics, which you’d think should translate well to comic book boom boom. However, the limited resources at the filmmaker’s disposal are very visible. The movie looks cheap and the action is unsatisfying. It would be fine if this was a low-budget flick striving to look bigger, but this is supposed to be a Hollywood pulse-raiser. The relentlessly dumb dialogue is downright irritating as well, with lines like “We need to ditch the car and get into my email” neither feeling like camp comedy nor macho absurdity. The whole thing just feels very lazy, the product of a bunch of slumming veterans and up-an-comers going through the action movie motions and hoping that their clichés feel nostalgic.

Even for those still enamored by the cult of Tom Cruise, ‘Never Go Back’ feels like a failure. He was always miscast in this brooding anti-hero role. He’s simply too famous a slice of American pie to look like a grumbling outsider rejected by society. The ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise still works because Cruise’s persona is very much as outsized and iconic as James Bond’s (plus, you know, he does those stupidly dangerous stunts to keep us excited). The hulking dullness of Jack Reacher robs Cruise of his natural charisma. A silent malevolent Clint Eastwood-style threat this guy is not, even if you stick him in a leather jacket and paint on some facial scars.

‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is probably the lowest low of this down period in Tom Cruise’s career. It’s a boring, flatly shot and hopelessly clichéd action movie that should have debuted direct-to-VOD starring a professional wrestler. It’s only in theaters through Tom Cruise’s sheer force of will. If the guy keeps insisting on elevating crap like this, he won’t have the power to do that much longer and will soon join Nicolas Cage as the king of bad B-movies you watch on Netflix for a laugh before getting bored halfway through.


  1. NJScorpio

    That stinks. I enjoyed the last one just enough to have watched it more than once. Then John Wick came out, and I haven’t even thought about Reacher. Even the vehicle-use-during-a-shoot-out scene was better in John Wick.

    If Hollywood wants to bank on familiar actors and properties, but wants to save a little green, they should just go all Jetsons Meets The Flintstones.

    I’ll be there release day for ‘Reacher vs Bourne’.

    • Bolo

      Yeah, it’s a pity. I liked the first one, too. I realize these types of movies aren’t the sort of thing American audiences get excited about anymore, but I have outdated sensibilities so I got a kick out of seeing a big star in present day choose to act in what was essentially a Chuck Norris movie.

  2. Bolo

    I’ll throw in Lana Condor, who played Jubilee in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, as actress whose real name sounds more like a movie character name than the character she played.

          • Indeed. ‘Mark Vincent’ sounds like an everyday normal guy, ‘Vin Diesel’ is badass. ‘Vin Benzine’ would have been better, because it rhymes (benzine being Dutch for ‘gas’, and old English for ‘benzene’)

          • Bolo

            Yes, I get that these aren’t the full legal names these people were born with. It makes it even funnier that they adapt a name that sounds so much larger than life so that they can turn around and play a character named Bob Smith or something in a movie.

            Vin Diesel especially sounds like he should be a character in ‘Fast & Furious’, not the actor acting in it.

  3. Pedram

    People complain a lot that Cruise doesn’t look like Jack Reacher, but the great majority of people have never heard of the original Jack Reacher so I don’t think it really matters at the end of the day. Cruise’s name would definitely sell more tickets than Reacher’s name, so from a Hollywood producer/business standpoint I can see why they did it. It didn’t really bother me since I had never heard of Reacher before the first movie.

  4. “… this down period in Tom Cruise’s career.”

    Can we still consider his career to have a down period? The last two ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies made a lot of money, and ‘Oblivion’ – while not a box office juggernaut – was excellent. So, isn’t his career quite back on track?

    • Phil

      I don’t know. I mean, yes those Mission Impossible movies are huge hits, but other than that everything else has been pretty disappointing at the box office over the last decade (even Edge Of Tomorrow which is one of the best movies Cruise ever made). I do think his star power is sinking. But then again, so is star power in general.

    • Al

      This comment really pissed me off. Tom Cruise is better than ever. The current chapter of his career is anything but a low point. As a matter of fact, he’s better than ever, and the films from this stage of his career have probably been the best films he has ever made. Even if I don’t agree with you, when it comes to the first Jack Reacher (and most people don’t, either), I’ll give that one to you and just look at the last 6-8 other films that he has been in. I guarantee you’ll see that they hold their own against any other 6-8 consecutive films he has ever been in, at any point in his career. The man is pure gold. I’ll admit that the second Jack Reacher isn’t very good, but prior to it, he was on a decade long winning streak. That’s the opposite of a low point. Keep your personal biases to yourself and focus on reviewing the material at hand.

      • Regardless of how much you may like his movies, Tom Cruise’s box office draw is indisputably waning. Only the Mission: Impossible franchise continues to be successful for him. Almost all of his other recent films (Valkyrie, Knight and Day, Rock of Ages, Jack Reacher, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, and now this, have underperformed. I think it’s very fair for Phil to call this a down period in Cruise’s career.

        • Al

          Phil didn’t say anything about box office. He very much implied that it’s an artistic low point. And that’s simply not the case. On top of that, nobody has star power, any longer. It doesn’t exist. Box office is concept driven. Need examples? Look at Will Smith. Need better examples? Look at Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. They’re the two latest movie stars that the industry banks on to put butts in the seats. Take them out of The Hunger Games/X-Men or Jurassic movies and GotG movies, and they can’t draw. Lawrence couldn’t even draw, in the latest X-Men. Pratt — despite Denzel Washington’s presence — can’t draw in Magnificent Seven. Star power is a thing of the past. Phil was wrong to include that last paragraph. It had nothing to do with the material at hand.

  5. Darkmonk

    You establish in your early paragraphs that you hate Tom Cruise.
    Why would I read the rest? Whether it is a good or bad film, you clearly have it out for Tom Cruise.
    And surely, the blame clearly rests on Edward Zwick – The DIRECTOR.

      • EM

        This is what I don’t like: Here it is almost Halloween when this new movie comes out, and the main character’s name sounds like “Jack Creature”, yet this isn’t a creature feature. I feel cheated.

  6. Pedram

    This review starts out by saying that the first film was not very good. It basically lost me right away. As some one who enjoyed the first film I’d rather hear from someone who actually liked the first movie, and how this compares to the last one.

    • Well If it helps, I enjoyed the first one, saw it at the cinema and a couple of times at home. This one though is terrible, halfway through I turned to my girlfriend and said “this is s**t!” can’t remember doing that before.

      Very cliched, zero surprises and terrible ‘bad guys’. The first movie had Duvall and Herzog, this one has nothing.

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