Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher is the hero of Lee Child's long-running series of thrillers; he's a former MP who when we find him is living a sort of hilariously off-the-grid life that involves hitchhiking around the country and stumbling into a series of evil conspiracies. I use the world "hilariously" with caution since there's really no humor in the Reacher books. Reacher is laconic to the end, not even finding the woman that each novel offers him as partner and sometime love interest worth more than a cursory scene of opening up.

Never Go Back, directed by Edward Zwick (who a long time ago directed Glory) is the second film in which Tom Cruise has played Reacher. This time out Reacher is enjoying a telephone flirtation with a Major Turner (Cobie Smulders),  who now commands his old unit. When Reacher turns up for a promised dinner date he finds Turner in prison and charged with espionage. The rest of the plot involves defense contractors, a prison escape. a Mardi Gras parade, and a young woman (Danika Yarosh) who may be Reacher's daughter. Given that Cruise produced Never Go Back it's surprising how perfunctory it all feels. The villains are barely sketched out and the charm of Reacher's intuition always being better than everyone else's wears thin over the course of two hours.

I recently heard a podcast claim that the two best Tom Cruise movies are Jerry McGuire and Edge of Tomorrow because they deconstruct the Cruise persona. Never Go Back is working on a parallel track; because Reacher is so non-verbal there's little use for Cruise's charm. so he has to rely on charisma and physicality. Cruise makes all that work well enough, but movie star energy is not enough to prop up a underwritten movie.

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