David and I somehow missed the first "Jack Reacher" (2012) with Tom Cruise. I have been a Cruise fan since "Risky Business" (1983), when it was vastly apparent that kid, Joel Goodsen, would make Cruise a big star. He's had an amazing career thus far, and at age 54 looking fit and trim as always, Cruise doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Reacher, ex-military himself, arrives in Washington, D.C. hoping to have dinner with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), whom he's never met, but for whom he had just broken up an illegal immigrant ring. But instead of Turner, Reacher gets taken in to see Col. Morgan (Holt McCallany), who informs Reacher that Major Turner has been arrested on espionage charges.
Events escalate with Turner in jail. When her attorney, Col. Moorcraft (Robert Catrini) is found beaten to death, Reacher is arrested and accused of his murder --- along with failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), he knew nothing about.
With The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger), a paid assassin, already nipping at his heels, Reacher manages to break Turner and himself out of jail. Now they must find Samantha and determine who's behind the conspiracy which put them both in the crosshairs.
Directed by Edward Zwick, "Glory" (1989), "Legends of the Fall" (1994) and "Blood Diamond" (2006), who is no stranger to action films, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" has enough stimulation for two films. A great deal of the fisticuffs here are overly brutal and violent, but for devotees of this genre, it is probably never enough. Zwick doesn't really add anything new to the action/adventure formula, which becomes the problem with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back". There is nothing new --- just the same high-octane chase scenes and overtly violent battles.
Cruise is beginning to show his age in his face, but his actions haven't slowed down one bit. Though Reacher does take a pounding in several of his fights, and getting up afterwards comes a little slower, I don't see this franchise ending anytime soon. And Cruise is always good --- whether he's hanging from a plane in "Mission: Impossible --- Rogue Nation" (2015) or comforting a teenage girl who may or may not be his kid. It's just the genre which is tired.
Smulders is really good, as is Yarosh. Unfortunately both are relegated to second banana behind Cruise. Even with little or no makeup, Smulders is simply a beauty, and her moves in a fight situation are impressive. She is only going to get bigger and bigger roles.
The exact same can be said for Yarosh. She's got a great look and talent --- especially when outwitting The Hunter and his goons. Her outcome is too predictable for me, but that isn't Yarosh's fault --- that lies at the hands of the writers.
Though I am exhausted by these movies and all of the insane violence and action, I understand that a great many moviegoers love this kind of film. So, if you are one of those, you will appreciate "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back". If you are more like me, take a pass.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
At age 54, Tom Cruise still packs a wallop. Just ask some of the poor thugs who feel his wrath in this sequel to the original "Jack Reacher" from 2012.
"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" doesn't really show us anything new. We have the wronged hero being pursued by authorities. He valiantly tries to protect the heroine, Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) from those that would court martial her, or worse. And there is a 15-year-old girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who may or may not be his daughter from a previous relationship.
Having missed the first installment in this series, I have no basis for comparison. But I know that "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is well acted, featuring an exciting and seamless action story. Director Edward Zwick knows a thing or two about presenting quality entertainment. He produced such mega hits as "Traffic" and "Shakespeare in Love", and directed Denzel Washington in "Glory" (1989) and Cruise in the underrated "The Last Samurai" (2003).
Here Cruise does his usual thing. The picture opens in a diner where a bloodied Reacher stands up to a smug sheriff and his deputy intent on arresting him for assault and battery. Throughout the film, Cruise runs --- and runs some more, mostly with Major Turner. To the film's credit, though, there is a suggestion of potential romantic involvement with these two, they never exchange so much as a peck on the cheek.
Perhaps the most defining aspect of "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is the terrific performance of the 18-year-old Yarosh. As Samantha, the rebellious teen with no fear and an estranged mother, she is believable without grating on our nerves. Most child actors seem to overplay their parts, trying too hard to get it right. But Yarosh nails the role like a seasoned player. Fans of "Shameless" know her as Holly Herkimer.
Smulders, too, has her finest moments on the big screen. She is a no-nonsense military presence who looks splendid in her dress uniform. Perhaps it's a stretch that the slightly-built Smulders can handle herself so adeptly with oversized opponents, but it is, after all, just a movie.
See "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" for Cruise standing up to the bad guys, and for his always entertaining action sequences. But don't expect to see anything you haven't seen before in this genre.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!