2016, Movies

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016, Edward Zwick)

After watching this sequel, I feel like I should go back and up my rating on the original because, for all its flaws – some seemingly inherent in the source material – the original movie was entertaining as these things go. This one is not.

SPOILERS (for this film and the original)

The first problem is Reacher himself (or, possibly, Tom Cruise’s version of Reacher). Reacher is a superhero; he is extremely physically gifted, he is smarter than everyone else, he never violates his own personal ethics, and his personal failings, the things that should make him human, are relatively minor (he has trouble babysitting the teenager, he has trouble working as a team). These flaws were present in the character in the original film but that character was (relatively) fresher and the situation that character was in was more interesting (if not necessarily more believable). Though Reacher is the creation of a novelist, he feels like an extension of Cruise’s ego. In both movies, characters say things to Reacher that are literally just Cruise ego strokes, but it’s worse this time because the movie around Reacher is worse.

And that’s because the plot is dumb. I mean, the original’s plot was kind of dumb too, but this one is levels of dumb greater. Instead of a way-too-powerful mysterious bogeyman from the first movie (Wernerg Herzog!), this time it’s a defense contractor, which behaves as if it’s the CIA and the Military all rolled into one. The military appears completely unconcerned that a defense contractor has hijacked it for the company’s own profit; many people in military seem to want to go along with the conspiracy because money (I think).

And the resolution to all this is so fucking tidy, despite what has happened throughout the film, because the film wants a different climax, a climax based around hanging a surrogate daughter (not to mention wife) around Reacher, to make him actually vulnerable (because, like I said, dude’s a superhero). And so, though we have this elaborate defense contractor conspiracy that is the focus of the movie, that is swiped aside in one scene, so we can have a drawn out chase and standoff in New Orleans around the surrogate daughter. That doesn’t make much sense to me, since I was supposed to be involved in the mystery of the conspiracy (ostensibly the A story) not whether or not she’s his daughter (ostensibly the B story). Maybe that would be a cool trick if it was done with any artfulness or craft.

And of course, Reacher is such a man who adheres to his code that he cannot have fathered a daughter out of wedlock and failed to pay child support (that would make him human) so there’s a weird denouement that renders the B story somewhat pointless. Would he have gone to these lengths if he was sure she wasn’t his daughter? Who knows! Maybe! That’s why he’s Jack Reacher!

Anyway, at least it was competently made.

4/10 feels slightly charitable

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