There’s the kind of action-adventure movies where one of the most entertaining aspects of the viewing experience is knowing the hero’s lines before he even speaks them; it comes from years of repeated viewings of classic films of the genre, ones that make speaking such iconic quotes as ‘yippe ki-yay, motherf*cker‘ or ‘hasta la vista, baby‘ along with the hero so damn enjoyable, even though there’s zero element of suspense any more.
Then there’s the kind that is so riddled with clichés that every single line of dialogue seems like a throwaway, every character is two-dimensional, every plot twist entirely predictable.
That’s basically Jack Reacher: Never Go Back in a nutshell.
Although the first movie wasn’t bad at all, I felt that this one left much to be desired.
It’s not just the fact that Tom Cruise basically plays the same damn character in every movie he’s been in the last decade; there’s nothing separating Jack Reacher from Ethan Hunt except the obvious military background (there’s also nothing suggesting Tom Cruise is ideal for the role, as he is neither 6’5, nor dirty blond, and definitely not in his 40’s any more, despite his impressive physical condition and affinity for doing his own stunts).
It’s not even the tried-and-tested premise where the hero is either joined by (or runs to the aid of) a pretty young female character for some added sexual tension. Although I much prefer the lovely Cobie Smulders to Rosamund Pike and her across the board flat delivery of every line of dialogue she’s given, I’m having a hard time buying Cobie as an army major.
Never Go Back just seemed to lack the interesting plotline the original Jack Reacher movie had to offer, and was basically just a 2-hour chase and fight sequence. Even the location itself seems like a cop-out: there’s more to New Orleans than the parade on Bourbon street, and as much as using the chaotic atmosphere as a foot-chase setting makes sense, it just felt as one more unoriginal plot device to cap every other cliché thrown into this movie.
I haven’t read Lee Child’s numerous Jack Reacher novels, so maybe the story was as lacking on the page as it translated onto the screen. Still, the limited character development, cardboard villain and complete absence of any sort of suspense made what was an otherwise fast-paced action thriller surprisingly dull. Perhaps the best example of this was the movie’s climactic scene where Reacher is face to face with the bad guy and his maybe-daughter’s life is at stake. He tells her exactly what we expect him to (which qualifies as a bit of payoff to an otherwise humdrum earlier scene but is too on the nose to cancel out its utter predictability), he puts himself on the line, and, more to the point, it’s yet another instance of the superhero character who can withstand a beating, fall off a building and still manage to vanquish his foe. Yawn.
Normally I stay glued to my screen when watching a movie packed with action sequences; this one would make adequate background noise while I go about house chores, and that really just says it all for me.