Before I launch into my review of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, I want to explain my mindset when I walk into a theater.
I do my best to set aside what I know about a story going in. That means that I try not to let what I know of a movie’s source material, the true story it is based on or how I felt about any other movies that are part of the same franchise I am about to see. My goal is to judge what I am seeing as its own entity. The only question I am trying to answer is "how did I feel for these two hours?”
I give you this explanation to tell you that I have not read any of the Jack Reacher novels, nor have I seen the first Jack Reacher movie, and that shouldn’t matter. All you should be concerned with is was "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" worth the two hours I invested?
The answer is a resounding no.
The movie stars Tom Cruise, but it was clearly written for Steven Segal. Every single line in this script is a one-liner. It’s like watching a McBane movie.
It really is that kind of bad, and it’s apparent from the first frame of the movie when a crowd is gathered outside of a diner. They have just seen the titular Jack Reacher beat up a bunch of evil cowboys, and there are clearly at least three extras in the crowd who are giggling like the concept of playing make believe has just been explained to them.
Jack Reacher (Cruise) is a former MP in the Army. He left the service long ago to drift from town to town setting right what once went wrong. He’s like a combination of The Hulk, Dr. Sam Beckett from "Quantum Leap" and Grumpy from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."
Reacher occasionally reaches out to Major Turner (How I Met Your Mother’s Colbie Smulders). She currently commands the MP unit Reacher used to. He tells her what he is going to do, and then she sends her guys in to make the necessary arrests.
I think they fall in love, kinda. I’m not sure, but Reacher heads to DC to meet Turner and, upon his arrival, finds out she has been arrested for espionage. But here’s the thing, and it’s a big one. She may have been framed! I KNOW!
So Reacher is on the case. He breaks Turner out of a high security military prison (because apparently that is easy to do), and they go on the run. In the meantime, just about everyone who knows Maj Turner or anything about her case is getting killed by a military contract group that has something to hide.
There’s also a storyline about a girl that could be Jack Reacher’s daughter. The character is played by Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn, Shameless), who is horrible, but so is everything and everyone else in the movie, so I guess it’s what the filmmakers were going for.
Speaking of bad acting, let’s talk about Aldis Hodge, who plays Espin, the MP pursuing Reacher and Turner. Friday Night Lights fans will recognize Hodge as Voodoo Taylor. Others may recognize him as MC Ren from "Straight Outta Compton."
I like Aldis Hodge. I think he is a good actor, but I am not sure he put any effort into this role. Every line is read instead of delivered. It’s almost as if he had never seen the script before he got to the set each day.
The climax of our story takes place in New Orleans, and this is where the lazy writing bubbles over into the unforgivable. The accents on every character from New Orleans make John Malkovich’s accent work in "Deepwater Horizon" seem subtle and understated.
Here are some other things "Jack Reacher: Never Goes Back" asks you to accept as fact:
- There is not only a direct flight, but a red eye from Norfolk to New Orleans (there is not)
- You can get a two-bedroom suite with a balcony on Bourbon Street for $350 a night on Halloween weekend (you cannot)
- Everyone from the city pronounces it “Naaawwww-lins” (they do not - to be fair, though, there was one guy that pronounced it “Naw Ah-leeens," which is also something that they don’t do)
- Everyone you meet has the same last name as a famous Cajun chef (most do not)
Speaking of that red eye flight, Reacher beats up one guy and kills another. It’s not subtle. It’s certainly not quiet, and no one even looks up.
He beats up a dude while they are both seated in a row, and the people seated behind them don’t even clear their throats to signal they don’t appreciate being disturbed!
I don’t know if the first Jack Reacher movie is any good. I don’t know how entertaining any of Lee Child’s novels are. Frankly, none of that information is relevant.
"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is garbage. I really don’t have a better closing line than that, so let’s just leave it there.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.