Review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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PLOT: Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns to his former Washington D.C command in order to clear the name of his friend, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who’s been accused of espionage. Along the way, he also discovers he may have a daughter (Danika Yarosh), who’s being stalked by a deadly mercenary (Patrick Heusinger) with a grudge against him.

REVIEW: The Jack Reacher franchise (based on the series of novels by Lee Child) is one that star Tom Cruise seems hell-bent on making work. The first one, JACK REACHER, only did modest business in North America, but it was a blockbuster overseas, hence the sequel, which tries hard to differentiate this lower-key saga from the big-budget MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies. To that end, Cruise has recruited his THE LAST SAMURAI director, beefed up the drama, and made a film that’s more focused than the original.

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Part of the charm of JACK REACHER was the grounded action, which favored fist-fights, and shoot-outs as opposed to large-scale stunts or anything CGI-enhanced. The sequel, JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK adopts the same style. Much of the movie is devoted to Reacher’s detective work as him and Turner (Smulders) try to figuren out why she’s been framed, leading them to a black ops team of mercenaries run by Robert Knepper’s General Harkness.

As usual, Tom Cruise goes all-in, doing all of his own stunts and proving once again why he’s arguably the biggest star in the world. There’s no phoning it in for the guy, and the way Zwick and his team shoot and cut the fights, you can tell Cruise is right in the thick of the action. Zwick’s framing of Reacher is interesting here, as he emphasizes Cruise’s compactness, surrounding him with enemies that dwarf him physically, but never stand a chance once he does his stuff.

In his mid-fifties, Cruise looks as good as ever. Yet, his age is acknowledged in an interesting way, with him actually getting to play a fatherly role, once he’s confronted by the news that a teenaged delinquent may in fact be his daughter. With her now a target as a way of getting to Reacher, he’s forced to take her under his wing, and their relationship grounds the movie, giving it a different flavor than its predecessor. Danika Yarosh emphasizes her own character’s resourcefulness, making her a good foil for Reacher.

As Turner, Cobie Smulders delivers in a big-way, making this a serious action showcase for her, the same way that previous Cruise-starrers, EDGE OF TOMORROW, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, were from Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson. Expect this to give her a real boost as a heroine. Like Cruise, she does her own stunts, excelling at the hand-to-hand scraps, particularly one with a baton. Imagine a more personable Maria Hill, but tied to reality and in the thick of all the action and you’ve got an idea of what she brings to the film. She’s a hero in her own right, and she never feels like a tacked on love interest.

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Also impressive is Patrick Heusinger as the main physical adversary, a mercenary who’s like the evil version of Reacher. His final mano-a-mano brawl with Reacher ranks among Cruise’s most impressive fights, and it’s worth noting Zwick has really emphasized the brutality here, getting a lot of mileage out of the PG-13.

My only problems with JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK stem from the fact that Knepper’s main baddie never really gets a chance to assert himself, only emerging from the shadows in the last act. With Reacher and Turner such formidable heroes, Heusinger shouldn’t have been the only real threat. The rest of the mercenaries are mostly faceless enemies for Reacher to kill or maim, but, again, the fights are superb and the pace is solid (as opposed to the overlong first film).

If you’re a Tom Cruise fan (and if you’re on this site – you probably are) then JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is a must-see. You can’t go wrong with Cruise, as his vehicles rarely go wrong. They’re always up to a certain standard, and even if this isn’t as staggering as something like ROGUE NATION, it’s still a great little action flick and a good time at the movies.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.