Tom Cruise’s first outing as author Lee Child’s former military cop, in 2012, was an action flick with muscle, and it made some money, despite protests that Cruise didn’t match the description of the character in the novels. Never Go Back lacks its predecessor’s punch, but nonetheless proves a satisfactory follow-up.
Based on the 18th Reacher novel, it sees the ex-Major (as Cruise constantly corrects people) helping a fellow Major (Cobie Smulders) when she’s accused of espionage. While on the run from both the military and a hired assassin (generic Patrick Heusinger), they endeavor to clear her name, with help from a girl (Danika Yarosh) who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter.
Paramount wavered on making a second Reacher flick, which probably explains why Never Go Back feels like a somewhat indifferent effort at times, from the cheaper, TV-level supporting cast — head villain Robert Knepper can’t compare to first-flick baddie Werner Herzog — to the kind of standard-issue plotting typical of mass-market paperback mysteries.
As well the film attempts to humanize Reacher even more, resulting in a little too much talk and a little less action than I’d like. I don’t necessarily mind an action hero with depth, but Reacher’s already plenty interesting, what with being an ex-military guy with a photographic memory, badass defense and detective skills, and a rootless lifestyle that I truly envy.
Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) takes over as director from Christopher McQuarrie and seems an odd choice for an action-thriller. As co-creator of angst-heavy TV dramas like thirtysomething, he tends to be more about emotion than hand-to-hand combat. To his credit, the emotional stuff here does resonate, especially the relationship between Cruise and Yarosh.
But while Cruise emotes well enough, the women outshine him — Smulders, in particular. She effortlessly embodies a fierce, intelligent female soldier who doesn’t just stand idly on the sidelines, while Yarosh capably conveys her scared teen’s vulnerability, and her street smarts, which, interestingly enough, seem to echo Cruise’s.
Action-wise, the 54-year-old Cruise still proves a pro, climbing up buildings, single-handedly taking out thugs, and engaging in intense firefights. He certainly impresses during his and Smulders bruising fight with Heusinger in a restaurant kitchen, and during the finale he trades more brutal blows with Heusinger. He’s got plenty of action-hero fight left in him yet. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 2/7/17