Northwestern Press

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Movie Review: ‘Jack Reacher’

Thursday, November 3, 2016 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is not much of a reach for actor Tom Cruise.

The action-thriller is well within the wheelhouse of Cruise. As with the original “Jack Reacher” (2012), the sequel is a kind of low-rent “Mission: Impossible,” of which Cruise has made five since 1996 with a sixth in pre-production.

The character of Jack Reacher is more simplistic, working-class and not as suave as Ethan Hunt, the James Bond inspired protagonist of “Mission: Impossible.”

And, while “Never Go Back” is an almost self-defeating title for any film, much less for a sequel, why might you ever go see the “Jack Reacher” sequel?

Two words: Tom Cruise.

Cruise is a commanding presence. He projects a secure, calm and powerful image as Jack Reacher, who seems to be able to dodge bullets even as he’s firing them and has a martial-arts bag of tricks to boot.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is chock-full of action, from car chases, to foot chases (Cruise is particular adept at running) to explosions, gunfire and hand-to hand combat.

The storyline doesn’t really bear repeating. It’s as thin as the napkin it may have been written on. Basically, there are some sketchy operators in and out of military uniform who seem determined to kill Cruise while also framing Turner (Cobie Smulders), an Army Major, over suspected contraband arms sales out of Afghanistan.

Cruise and Smulders make a good action film buddy team in the tried and true tradition of the Hollywood studio buddy cop film. In this, “Jack Reacher” is reminiscent of a 1980s action film.

What’s lacking is a sufficiently interesting (read “dangerous”) antagonist or antagonists. Alas, The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger, “Frances Ha,” 2012) and Col. Morgan (Holt McCallany, “Sully,” 2016) don’t quite make it as fierce bad guys to balance the good guys. They seem more like supporting actors, which they are, based on their screen time in “Jack Reacher.”

And, if we’re not sure whether or not Cruise and Colby are good guys, the director and screenwriters seem less interested in the character dimensions and more interested in setting up action set pieces. The dialogue, character development and those memorable character quirks, quips and gestures that flesh out an action film, are lacking in substance and frequency in “Jack Reacher.”

The main reason to see “Jack Reacher” is to see Cruise on the big screen. His clenching and unclenching of his jaw muscles, slight tilt of his head, drop-dead stare and slight grimace breaking into a slight grin on his impassive face are trademark Cruise. In a black T-shirt, black jacket and jeans, Cruise is in control.

It helps that the on-screen chemistry between Cruise and Smulders (Agent Maria Hill, “The Avengers”) is quite good. The film is at its most enjoyable in their scenes of banter. A welcome addition to the dynamics is Danika Yarosh as Samantha, who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter.

Edward Zwick (“Blood Diamond,” 2006; “The Last Samurai,” 2003, which starred Cruise; “Glory,” 1989) directs from a screenplay by Lee Child (“Jack Reacher,” 2012, and the “Jack Reacher” novels) and Richard Wenk (“The Magnificent Seven,” 2016; “The Equalizer,” 2014; “The Expendibles 2,” 2012).

It’s pretty much by-the-book direction, including high-speed and desaturated flashbacks. This is not altogether a bad thing. However, there are few surprises in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” The main reason to go back to “Jack Reacher” is to see Tom Cruise.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,”MPAA PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements; Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Mystery, Thriller; Run Time: 1 hr., 58 min.; Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is based on the 18th “Jack Reacher” series novel by Lee Child. “One Shot,” the basis of “Jack Reacher” (2012), is the ninth book.

Box Office,Oct. 28: “Boo! A Madea Halloween” haunted the Halloween weekend to stay at No. 1 for two straight weeks with $16.6 million, $52 million, two weeks, keeping “Inferno,” starring Tom Hanks, opening at No. 2 with $15 million;

3. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” $9.5 million, $39.6 million; 4. “The Accountant,” $8.4 million, $61.2 million, three weeks; 5. “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” $7 million, $24.6 million, two weeks; 6. “The Girl on the Train,” $4.2 million, $65.9 million, four weeks; 7. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” $3.9 million, $79.8 million, five weeks; 8. “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” $3.3 million, $10.7 million, two weeks; 9. “Storks,” $2.7 million, $68.2 million, six weeks; 10. “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” $2.1 million, one week.

Unreel,Nov. 4: Unreel, Nov. 4:

“Doctor Strange,”PG-13: Scott Derrickson directs Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong in the fantasy film about a former neurosurgeon drawn to the mystic arts.

“Trolls,”PG: Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell direct the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the animation comedy set in a troll village.

“Hacksaw Ridge,”R: Mel Gibson directs Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey and Teresa Palmer in the war biography about World War II Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who during the Battle of Okinawa becomes the first Conscientious Objector in United States’ history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes