Jack can never go back
Review: Jack Reacher – Never Go Back
(M) Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
It has been 13 years since Tom Cruise and director Edward Zwick worked together on The Last Samurai (2003). This creative team has been brought back together to deliver the latest instalment of the Jack Reacher franchise. Reintroducing the retired military police officer who drifts through the countryside and administers his own form of justice. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has him assisting Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) in an internal investigation into his former regiment. Basically, he’s trying to work out why the Major has been framed for the murders of her own officers. This rag-tag investigation team must travel one step ahead of law enforcement and some illegal forces to solve the case and clear their names. During their investigation, Reacher discovers a secret from his past that will effect the process and the eventual outcome of the case. This tangled web of action, intrigue and espionage will challenge all of his abilities in investigation and physical combat.
The first movie chapter of the Jack Reacher franchise met with a mediocre response from audiences in 2012. For the fans of author Lee Child’s action hero, Tom Cruise failed to fill the shoes of the monstrous ex-military investigator. But the movie eventually garnered enough box office appeal to warrant a sequel. As producer and lead actor, Cruise was able to recruit Zwick to direct this latest excursion, providing some promise due to his strong directorial track record. The director, the huge fan base, and a proven franchise force in Tom Cruise points toward a winning combination. Yet, something has gone amiss.
I’m a quiet fan of the original film and the book series but the confidence I had placed in this new addition was quickly turned into frustration and disappointment. In his bid to maintain the intense confidence of Reacher, Cruise manages to overcompensate and convey a feeling of nomadic boredom throughout the film. The action component is evident in his performance, but the script and direction fail to capitalise on Cruise’s comedic ability. Also, much of the excessive nature of the violence is unleashed without justification. It is one thing to administer justice as Reacher does, but another thing for the lead character to lack a merciful side to his heavy hand.
Cruise has been left with a role that fails to connect with the audience on a human level or justify his method of law. It also can be said that the villain was poorly developed. The one-dimensional baddie played by Patrick Heusinger (Black Swan) becomes so tiresome that the hope is Reacher will finish him off half way through the film, to diminish the pain of his poor performance.
Childs created Jack Reacher as a reclusive guy who also possesses charisma coming out of his pores. Also, he has an uncanny ability to connect with people in need within any community he enters. A key misstep of Zwick’s interpretation of this anti-social hero is he fails to communicate this essential element. for example, chemistry never materialises with Major Turner. From the opening sequence, their relationship shows promise but doesn’t come to fruition, despite multiple on-screen opportunities.
With Cruise’s successful continuation of the Mission: Impossible franchise last year, a Reacher franchise seemed to a no-brainer. The cast and production teams all point toward a winning combination, but it never manages to reach the heights that the famed actor has come to enjoy. If Jack Reacher: Never Go Back does manage to recoup its budget and a third instalment is on the cards, maybe a new lead would be worth considering to reignite this poorly implemented franchise.
What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
How can we trust that justice will be done? One of the key themes of today’s action films is the notion that we must take justice into our own hands. Law enforcement, the judicial system and even God seem to be questioned on their ability to handle the proper administration of justice. How can we know that justice will prevail in this world? Thankfully, despite the most desperate of situations, there are answers to these questions — and the role of righteous judge has been taken.
What does the Bible have to say about justice?
Isaiah 30:18, Psalm 37:27-29, Luke 6:37, Romans 12:19
Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger
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