The man who doesn’t need a pen has drifted into a new town with a fistful of trouble, and there’s something a little bit comforting about that. Based on the books by Lee Child, JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK adapts the 18th book in the series, but also acts as a cinematic sequel to the 2012 film, simply titled Jack Reacher. Director Edward Zwick’s follow-up doesn’t stray too far from the formula the first film set down, but it turns out that’s exactly what we want.
In the years following the events of the first film, Jack (Tom Cruise) has been travelling the country and solving cases. After developing a friendly phone relationship with his liaison Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Jack arrives in Washington, DC to meet up with her. However, he finds that she has been charged with treason, and soon they are both on the run from the law and other nefarious forces.
The character of Reacher is a bit a dick, a fact continually demonstrated by his constant arrogance and general superiority complex. Yet in Turner he has something of an equal, a capable military officer who brushes up against a romantic angle, but safely keeps her distance enough to demonstrate some kick ass skills in the process. Fresh from several jaunts as Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Smulders and Cruise make a likeable on-screen partnership. If it weren’t for Reacher’s damn drifter ways, the pair would be a terrific double-act for future film entries.
Where JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK struggles a little is in the forced relationship building between Reacher and Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh), a 15-year-old who is possibly Reacher’s daughter. It’s an obvious move, given that Reacher’s character relies largely on his enigmatic appearances and ill-defined past. Yet with a role that is never fully fleshed out, Yarosh taps into the Kid Appeal Syndrome trope, but serves as a living reminder of the stakes Reacher faces beyond getting caught. It’s a simple but effective tool, even if it is a little bit cheap.
Nevertheless, while it may not have the sheer running-on-fumes appeal of the first outing, this sequel still works as a Cruise vehicle and a fun (if perfunctory) action-thriller. Filled with some lush photography of Louisiana, including a terrific rooftop fight sequence set against parade through the French Quarter, Zwick might be a long way from his Glory days, but he can still deliver a capable crowd-pleaser on demand.