"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”: Making “Dad Action” A Genre

By Scott Kurland
Film: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Husinger, and Holt McCallany
Rated PG-13
Director: Edward Zwick

I’m growing tired of going to Tom Cruise action movies that aren’t part of the “Mission Impossible” series. Actually, that’s not necessarily true. “Edge Of Tomorrow” still blows me away with every viewing.  I should say that I’m tired of seeing Tom Cruise in action movies where he’s the Executive Producer of the film. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true because there’s no stakes for him. He’s not going to get killed or even come close to being killed. He’s got production immunity. He’s starred in 39 films over the last 35 years, and has only died three and a half times. I say half because, in “Vanilla Sky,” he is resurrected. This week’s film is “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”, and it’s proof that Producer Cruise can never die. Let’s see how bullet proof he is shall we?

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” continues the adventures of ex-military police officer Major Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Reacher continues to drift across America, hitching rides and catching criminals who break military laws. When Reacher’s military contact, Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), is wrongfully accused of treason and war crimes, Reacher frees Turner so they can both hunt down the real traitors (Patrick Husinger and Holt McCallany). Reacher becomes compromised when he learns he might have a daughter (Danika Yarosh) and she’s in harms way. Will Reacher save Turner and protect his child? Or will he go down fight- no... he’s not going down. There’s like, eighteen of these books.

My biggest problem with these films is that they’re so long, and the action is so slow. I imagine that when middle-aged dads have daydreams about being action heroes, these fight scenes are what they see in their heads. The “Jack Reacher” films (and books) are the ultimate dad fantasy; being a hero who is also a dick. You save beautiful women and bad guys slow-punch at you so when you defend yourself it looks super fast and painful. My second grievance with this film is the director, Edward Zwick. Let’s see if you can figure out why. His past films include; “Glory”, “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond”. I know what you’re thinking: “One of these things is not like the other,” and you’re right. An all-out-action-film is not Zwick’s forte. He’s a history buff. All of his previous films are period pieces, political cautionary tales….and a film about Jake Gyllenhaal selling Viagra. Zwick should not be helming a Tom Cruise action-thrill- ride.

As for Cruise, I feel like this wasn’t the Tom Cruise we all know and tolerate. He looks tired and very bored on the screen. Cruise has a knack for playing roles like this, but Reacher at times is such a jerk I didn’t believe the character change that takes place at the end of this movie. Cruise needs to stop making so many franchise films. He has “Mission Impossible.” I love those films. I like Cruise in those films. BUT, the “Jack Reacher” films makes it feel as though Paramount trying to give us Ethan Hunt again. This is bizarre because this is based on a popular book series. Cruise might be the weakest part of this film, and that’s where the movie suffers. 

Let me give you a little movie writing history lesson. In late 80's and early-to-mid 90's, action movies got into the trope of adding a child (preferably a teenager) into the action. Not only were they supposed to be the comic relief (“Last Action Hero” I’m looking at you), they also proved to be badasses (I’m looking at you again “Last Action Hero”). This went on for years with films like “Aliens,” “Long Kiss Goodnight”... the list goes on forever. This was more of a crutch, because you paint yourself into a corner. That’s what happens here with 19 year-old Danika Yarosh playing Cruise’s 15 year-old daughter. Throughout the film she becomes this unnecessary MacGuffin (note: a MacGuffin is pretentious film speak for movie goal), that causes more damage to the plot than good . Yarosh’s Samantha is this constant damsel in distress that Reacher and Turner have to protect, but she is played off as a street-smart kid. She’s not a kid. She’s damn near twenty. She also isn’t street smart, she’s just common-sense-smart. They praise her for doing what a rational person would do when it comes down to fight or flight. I’m sure Yarosh is a great young actress, but “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is such a cliched role for her.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” feels more like a made-for-TV-movie.  It seems like the only reason why the cast & crew are doing the film is to pay off a beach house or plan an addition to their homes. Save your money and skip “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”. The action is unimpressive, the plot has been done to death, and if the characters had any less dimension to them they’d be trapped between the pages of the books they came from. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is easily a TV watch, so don’t waste your time seeing it an expensive theater.

scott kurlandComment