“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is the latest in what will probably end up being a series of films, like the Bourne franchise or the John Wick series (we can always hope, anyway: There will be a second in the aforementioned Keanu Reeves vehicle, so maybe there will be a fifth?) and it stars Tom Cruise. The latest Jack Reacher film is based on the 18th book in Lee Child’s series of action-packed, espionage-laced thuggery. Cruise pulls off the role, much like he did the first time.
But let’s chat about Tom Cruise for a moment, shall we? There was a time when Cruise’s name on a film meant something. It meant you were going to get your money’s worth from the theater-going experience. “The Color of Money” was high quality entertainment, “Rain Man” was nothing short of amazing and Cruise was well-known for being great to work with. Even “Mission Impossible” was watchable because of Cruise, regardless of the fact that the plot was some kind of mess of scrap papers left behind at a writer’s meeting. Then he jumped up and down on Oprah’s sofa and all hell broke loose about his wacky religious beliefs. Well, my religion believes we drink the blood and eat the flesh of our Messiah when we take Communion, so I am not one to judge what someone else believes. So, Cruise can believe whatever makes him happy. Also, if it was his religious beliefs that made him a better actor (check out “Losin’ It” or his horrid turn in “Taps”), then kudos to whatever volcano that erupted and sprinkled down aliens into his body, or whatever he thinks. The problem is not his religion, the problem is that Cruise stopped picking interesting roles.
I’m sure the fans of the Jack Reacher books might enjoy this brutal, tough-guy: He talks smack and kicks ass, but I was underwhelmed. Directed by Edward Zwick, there’s a sluggishness to the whole affair. The plot is mostly straightforward. Reacher needs to find the real killer. There’s the attractive woman who can kick ass too. This time, it’s Cobie Smulders as Turner. About the best thing I can think to say about Smulders’ performance is that she performed her own stunts. Some of them looked difficult and potentially dangerous, so kudos. She is better suited for comedy, or at least seeing her in “How I Met Your Mother” for eight or nine years may have lulled me into seeing her as comedic, rather than dramatic, actor. Assuming she secures a better script next time out, I hope she does better. She seems genuinely likable as a person. With all of that said, Cruise does an adequate job that will not hurt his career but it will not win any converts. Maybe he can play a villain next time out? Perhaps he could pull off a Joe Everyman?
With Reacher, Cruise plays a guy off the grid: no cell phone, no email, pays cash and lives simple and hard. Plenty of people make a huge deal of the fact that in the book, Reacher is 6’5” and Cruise is somewhere around 5’6”. There is this thing about movies, it’s called suspension of disbelief. No Cruise is not as tall or bad-ass looking on screen as he was in the book, but last I checked none of the cast in “the Hobbit” had hairy feet. If the next Jack Reacher film has a better script, or moves faster and doesn’t have horrid dialogue like this version did, it might be worth viewing. This time out? Adequate at best.