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POINTLESS ACTION: First ‘Jack Reacher’ entertained—its sequel, not so much

The first Jack Reacher film was a fun, slightly by-the-numbers thriller. It featured Cruise doing his two favorite things: kicking ass and running fast. The sequel doesn’t quite live up to the original, mostly because it follows the script of the original so closely it feels pointless and redundant.

I enjoy Tom Cruise. For some reason that feels like a bold declaration or a statement of defense. I’m not sure when it became cool to throw shade at the last American movie star. Maybe it was his disastrous PR, sofa-jumping nightmare of a sham marriage to Katie Holmes. Maybe it was when he called Matt Lauer “glib” on national television. Perhaps it was when he fully embraced Scientology, stepped onto the altar hand-crafted by L Ron Hubbard, and became an ageless agent committed to destroying the almighty Xenu.

NO-SO THRILLING: Tom Cruise's latest Jack Reacher flick isn't that great. Courtesy photo.

NO-SO THRILLING: Tom Cruise’s latest Jack Reacher flick isn’t that great. Courtesy photo.

Yet, even though his life outside of the cineplex is a complicated mess of unexplainable craziness, I still enjoy Tom Cruise movies.  He has committed himself to making crowd-pleasing and engaging blockbusters in a day and age where blockbusters are becoming detached monstrosities and special effects-laden spectacles. Over the last few years, some of my favorite popcorn flicks have been Cruise vehicles: “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” are two perfectly executed pieces of escapism.

The first Jack Reacher film was a fun, slightly by-the-numbers thriller. It featured Cruise doing his two favorite things: kicking ass and running fast. The sequel doesn’t quite live up to the original, mostly because it follows the script of the original so closely it feels pointless and redundant.

Everyone’s former favorite military man is seeking justice and whipping the asses of anyone who stands between him and the truth. This time there’s a more personal stake in his mission as a colleague and potential romantic interest is framed for a crime she didn’t commit. A case that involves military contractors, lost billions, and a cover-up, leaving behind a trail of dead bodies. It becomes even more personal when a teenage girl gets involved, one that may or may not be his daughter.

Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum. Dum, dum, dum, dum … DUMMMMMMMM!
Reacher, his potential love interest, and his daughter have to try and solve the mystery to clear their names while staying one step ahead of killer mercenaries.

Let me start with an expression of my consternation: Blurgh. Let me follow up with a question to these creative minds in Hollywood:  Can we please stop using military contractors as the de facto bad guys in action films? I understand what easy targets they are. Generic, easy-to-loathe villains rank just behind Nazis, Russians and terrorists as action-film firearm fodder. The military industrial complex isn’t exactly primed to win any popularity contests, but at this point I’ve seen one film too many with these paper-thin villains. I suppose it would be fine if they were presented with any level of depth, but they never are. Instead they’re mustache-twirling murder machines who are willing to kill at will to ensure financial solvency.

There are lots of things that work in the film—most of which is Cruise and his ability to make even the most ridiculous material seem credible and the most ridiculous stunts seem plausible. His supporting cast doesn’t add a lot of fuel to the charisma fire. Cobie Smulders is a fine sidekick and a believable ass-kicking compadre. Unfortunately, neither are able to make the standardized plot anything other than average.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” feels like leftovers—a warmed-up plate of day-old scraps from the original film. There’s nothing here that feels overtly cinematic or even important enough to warrant a cinematic adaptation. There’s something inconsequential about this sequel. I didn’t mind seeing “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” but it feels like a movie with no reason to exist. There have been five “Mission: Impossible” films, and while none are perfect, they certainly find a way to distinguish themselves.

Jack Reacher is a series that hasn’t achieved that with a sequel. The story and scope feels more like a network TV show.  The stakes never really feel high, given that Cruise is an indestructible force on screen.

As far as Tom Cruise movies go, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” doesn’t carve any new creative territory. It’s more akin to forgettable efforts like “Oblivion” instead of a rollicking rollercoaster ride like “Rogue Nation.”

DETAILS:

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
★ ★
Rated PG-13
Directed by Edward Zwick
Starring  Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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