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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Tom Cruise and director Edward Zwick reunite after their successful 2003 collaboration, The Last Samurai, in the second of the Jack Reacher movie interpretations: Never Go Back.  If anyone actually got over the choice of Cruise to play Lee Child's title character of his long running novel series, they were left with a movie that had a lot going for it.  Unfortunately, it's follow up may have killed the franchise in it's tracks... [insert 'Never Go Back' pun].  Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, an ex army major who "they ran out of medals to give" but eventually decided to leave and live his life roaming the streets.  Never Go Back tells the story of his budding friendship with a current army major (Cobie Smulders), and his decision to go on the run with her when she is wrongly framed for espionage.  

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The books are a bit throw-away, but really good fun, and I enjoyed the two I've read.  Reacher's part investigator, part hard man/action hero, and his strong moral compass and intuitive skillset result in a protagonist it's very easy to get behind.  He's also a movie franchise goldmine, and it's no surprise the industry turned to this back catalogue.  What is surprising is how disinterested Cruise appears in this latest installment after fighting so hard for the rights, and (mostly) shaking off the initial controversy surrounding his casting (if you didn't know, Jack Reacher's supposed to be 6ft 5inch, weighing in at 210-250 pounds).  The controversy around the decision threatened to overshadow what I thought was a good interpretation of the character and some really memorable sequences.  It couldn't have been easy shouldering that burden, and yet here it just doesn't seem like he is trying.  I'm an embarrassingly big Tom Cruise fan, and if I were to try to defend him here I would say that he's just gone a bit overboard on the cold, distanced nature of the Reacher character.  Unfortunately it just comes across as if he's not that bothered.  His action sequences, if a little tame, are solid enough though and it's always great to see Cruise trading punches and scaling walls himself.

It's certainly not all on him though, and nobody has been given all that much to work with.  The story is very paint by numbers, and seems to flatline really early on.  The one paced plot and feel of the film is that of a midday TV film, but with Tom Cruise in, and it hit every thriller/action cliche on the way.  I also found the score quite jarring at times.  It often felt forced, as if it was trying very hard to tell you how to feel:  "Be excited!!" But I've no idea why they're running... "Aw, be emotional!!"  But I don't care if that's his daughter or not...  "This is tense!!"  I don't know who that guy is... and so on.  It's pretty lazy trick and just highlighted that the other cogs in the storytelling weren't doing their bit.  All the characters are pretty one dimensional.  Cobie Smulders was pretty badass though... that's about it.
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That being said, Never Go Back is watchable.  I wasn't looking at my watch, but nor was I desperate to find out what happens next.  While the first Jack Reacher film (2012) had a brilliant cast (Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, and Robert Duvall), and great sequences such as the car chase, an explosive finale, and the sniper shooter from the car park, I'm not sure I'll be able to recall much of it's follow up effort for long (hence why I'm writing this having just got back from the cinema!).  I remember Mark Kermode rating Diane (2013) 2 stars, and saying that sometimes a 2 star rated film can actually be worse than a 1 star film.  For a film to be 1 star, it's got to be pretty terrible.  Outrageously bad.  But so much so that's memorable.  It doesn't get more bland and uninteresting than a 2 star film, and I'm sad to say that is exactly what Never Go Back is.  Don't worry Tom, I'll forgive you.
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