Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
This weekend brings Tom Cruise back to the big screen in action star mode again with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back hitting theaters. While the first Jack Reacher movie was a surprise throwback of an action movie with an old school tough guy hero in the lead, it sounds like the follow-up has lost some of the magic that made audiences like the cocky, no nonsense character so much the first time around.
In the first Jack Reacher Never Go Back reviews hitting the web today, it appears most of the blame is being put on director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai), who doesn’t seem to understand what made the title character special. In addition, the sequel suffers from having a forgettable villain. But at the very least, Tom Cruise is still outstanding, and the action sounds like it’s on solid ground as well.
Read a round-up of Jack Reacher Never Go Back reviews below.
Peter Debruge at Variety has some of the more negative comments, calling the movie a forgettable sequel unworthy of the big screen:
[Director Edward] Zwick barely manages to tickle our adrenaline, waiting till the climactic showdown amid a New Orleans Halloween parade to deliver a sequence that could legitimately register as memorable.
Though framed in widescreen and lensed by Oliver Wood (DP on the first three Bourne movies), “Never Go Back” displays none of the style or audacity that lenser Caleb Deschanel brought to the earlier installment. The sequel looks almost grimy by comparison, relying overly on closeups of a star whose range of expressiveness has been limited to two signature moves: a meaningful jaw clench or a well-time narrowing of the eyes. Cruise can still be counted on to frequently sprint on-camera, but here he comes across as a shadow of the star we’ve known him to be.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter seems to feel roughly the same way:
By-the-numbers plotting, seen-it-all-before action moves, banal locations and a largely anonymous cast alongside the star give this a low-rent feel. … Based on the 18th of Child’s 20 Reacher best-sellers, the film serves up nothing that hasn’t been seen in countless action films before, and it’s striking how little effort appears to have been made to give it any distinction: The villains are military guys gone rogue, the female lead is basically fighting the same fight Rosalind Russell did to be recognized for her equal worth among men in His Girl Friday more than 75 years ago, the hand-to-hand combat won’t make anyone’s highlight reel and even [Tom Cruise] looks a bit pale and out of training compared with the shape he invariably gets himself into for the far more elaborate and fun Mission [Impossible] outings.
Scott Mendelson at Forbes compares the sequel unfavorably to the first movie, but indicates there’s fun to be had still:
Like the 2012 installment, this is an explicitly old-school studio programmer. There is one reference to texting and one plot point involving email, but otherwise, this film could easily be set in 1995 for all we know. Never Go Back is ably directed by Zwick and mostly exists as a showcasing for watching Cruise crack heads, solve mysteries, and banter with the two relatively new women in his life. In that sense, it’s mostly quite a bit of fun, but it’s a much shallower picture than Chris McQuarrie’s more cynical and embittered picture. … The film holds back on big-scale action until the end, and the finale does offer a robust chase through a crowded locale while offering a bit of the patented “Tom Cruise runs like only Tom Cruise can run” business. The majority of the movie is spent on gumshoe investigation, brief beat downs and chases (there is a second act beat where other people run alongside Cruise), and old-fashioned character interaction. This sequel lacks the crackling dialogue of its predecessor and anything beyond surface level entertainment and thrills.
Peter Travers at Rolling Stone isn’t quite as hyperbolic as he can be with positive reviews, but he has plenty of kind things to say about the movie:
Zwick pulls out all the stops with shootouts and chases, especially in a climactic battle during a New Orleans Halloween parade. But it’s the character-based scenes that put meat on the bones of a popcorn movie that could have slid by on pulp escapism. Cruise finds the core of Reacher in his eyes, with a haunted gaze that says this lone wolf is still on a mission and still a long way from home. That’s the Reacher Lee Child created in his books. And Cruise does him proud.
David Ehrlich at IndieWire compares Jack Reacher: Never Go Back to a rundown car, and even gives it a better title:
Less of a movie than it is a monotonous two-hour supercut of Tom Cruise elbowing people in the face, “Jack Reacher: Never Stop Never Reaching” (editor’s note: not the actual title) is a relentlessly generic star vehicle that’s been stripped down to nothing but an old engine and a rusty chassis. The jalopy still runs, of course — and not just because Cruise is now blatantly using Hollywood to subsidize his cardio routine — but it can be a pretty bumpy ride when you road-test it without luxuries like a coherent plot, compelling set pieces, or any clear reason to exist.
Alonso Duralde at The Wrap find the movie to be acceptable, though not a must-see in theaters:
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is as featureless and generic as its title, but between Cruise’s star quality and the ability of director Edward Zwick to stage coherent action sequences, the results are a palatable enough popcorn movie.
[It’s] the kind of film you watch with your dad. On an airplane. Or when “Keeping Up with the Joneses” is the only other movie you haven’t seen at the multiplex. It’s nothing special, but it’s nothing awful, either.
Tom Eames at Digital Spy thinks the two big problems with the movie are a lack of Tom Cruise and a mediocre villain:
Tom Cruise is excellent, fierce and strangely hilarious as Jack, but he feels like a guest star in his own movie. The few moments he gets to kick some serious bottom and throw a couple of wisecracks are genuinely brilliant, especially the first sequence outside a diner and fighting a bunch of hired goons in some random hangar.
But we haven’t even got to the big, big issue.
The big, big issue is the film’s lack of a threatening baddie. The problem with the first film was that the main antagonist was played by Jai Courtney as a bland, boring and instantly forgettable git. (Though Werner Herzog, horribly underused as the Big Bad Boss, was awesome.) So, what do they do for the second film? Cast relative newcomer Patrick Heusinger as a bland, boring and instantly forgettable supergit. He even looks like Jai Courtney.
Evan Saathoff at Birth.Movies.Death, someone who loved the first movie, found little to like about the follow-up saying that the sequel “manages to fail on almost every level,” and he even explains all its shortcomings, including:
[Edward] Zwick doesn’t seem to understand what makes Reacher special at all and instead treats him as an action cypher. The always-game Cruise does his best but requires guidance to make his characters special. He gets none here.
Reacher’s condescending righteousness is gone. His impatience with idiots is gone. His brutality is gone. This leaves Cruise with very little to play.
Never Go Back’s fight scenes (there aren’t many) are a travesty, taking us back to the quick-cut, incompressible action filmmaking we should be long finished with by now.
Matt Singer at ScreenCrush found shortcomings in the bad guy department, but otherwise got pretty much what he was expecting after the first film:
Never Go Back could have used a bit more personality in the bad guy department, and the middle section sags a bit before the inevitable (and satisfying) denouement. But everyone involved seems to understand exactly what kind of movie they’re trying to make, and they deliver on just about every promise made by the title Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Smulders makes a strong addition to the series, and Cruise gives the 1,000 percent he brings to every single role. Looking back at my review of the first Jack Reacher from 2012, I find that my final sentence and rating from that piece still applies: “If you’re looking for something lean and unpretentious, you should be pretty satisfied.
Mike Ryan at Uproxx is a little more blunt and casual about his review, and while he had fun watching it, that fun may not have been in the form that some people are looking for:
Jack Reach: Never Go Back amps up the absurdity to, well, absurd levels. (If this were Twitter, I’d add the hashtag #absurd.) There’s a scene in which the main bad guy (I have no idea what his name is and I’m not going to look it up because it doesn’t at all matter in this movie) threatens Jack Reacher over the phone. Reacher responds by saying, “I’m going to break your arms!” Oh my gosh, I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. This is an impossibly dumb movie and I had so much fun watching it. Bring on ten more Jack Reacher movies.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back looked like more of the same in the trailers, but most of the reviews seem to indicate that it’s not quite up to the intensity and attitude of the first movie. It sounds like Jack Reacher has been neutered a bit and maybe director Edward Zwick really didn’t know how to treat the character like Christopher McQuarrie did in the first movie. Even some of the shortcomings of the first movie are still around in the form of an average villain.
At the very least, it sounds like Tom Cruise mostly delivers exactly what you’d expect from him and the action should be enough to keep fans of the first film entertained for another two-hour adventure with Jack Reacher.
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