By Roger Thomas
If I happen upon “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” when I am flipping channels a year or two from now, I doubt I will stop clicking. I do not believe I will ever want to “go back” to this film.
With that said, allow me to offer the strengths of the film first.
The opening scene is nearly perfect. It has great humor. The action is exciting. There is a mystery and it creates a situation in a way that one cannot help but desire the resolution. It is about as good of an opening as any film this year has had. There are only two things wrong with the scene. First, it happens far too quickly and it is over. It is never a good sign when the best scene is the opening scene. Of course, you do not always know that at the start, but sometimes it becomes clear rather quickly.
Second, that scene is almost completely in the trailers that have been playing in theaters for the last three months or so. Much of the humor and twists in this scene have already been revealed. As I watched a scene that was far too familiar, yet was still powerful, I was hoping the rest of the film would be just as good but not as familiar.
The other part of the film that truly worked was the climatic conclusion. This action-packed finale almost redeemed the rest of the film. The scene is set during a “Day of the Dead” parade in New Orleans. I immediately thought of James Bond films. It seems about half of “Bond” films feature a parade at one time or another, but I am not sure about that. The parade scene in “Reacher,” which starts with a manhunt through the parade and ultimately ends with all the major characters on the rooftops above the festivities, has the best moments in the film, with the exception of the opening. If all of the middle of the film could have been as enthralling as the beginning and the parade climax, this would have been an amazing thriller.
The major problem of the middle section is that much of the plot seems implausible. More than once the villain could have killed Reacher and his companions, but ultimately he never acts when he should. An assassin goes to an apartment with the mission to kill a young girl and her foster parents. The girl hides in a cabinet and survives. What kind of hitman does not check the cabinets? There are other times when the plot seem too unbelievable. Why did he do that? How could that happen? Everything does not have to be absolutely believable, but when one thing after another seems contrived, it weakens the whole.
Director Edward Zwick has crafted some films that were quite enjoyable or even profound: “Love and Other Drugs,” “Blood Diamond,” “Courage Under Fire,” and “Glory,” just to name a few. His last directing endeavor was the chess film “Pawn Sacrifice,” which I have written about previously. If I had to choose between “Pawn Sacrifice” and “Reacher” to watch again, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” would be my choice because I least I like parts of that film.
Finally there is Tom Cruise. This is his second time as Jack Reacher. There may be future plans for more. Personally, if he would ask me, I would advise him to stick to the “Mission: Impossible,” series. Of the two that one seems slightly more plausible, and is always great fun. Of course, if the next “Reacher” could be as strong as the first ten minutes of this second film, I would be all in favor of another “Reacher” saga.