Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/23/16
Music: Henry Jackman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Madalyn Horcher, Jessica Stroup

Tom Cruise attempts to inject some sentimentality and vulnerability into his portrayal of Jack Reacher, and only succeeds in coming across as tired and confused. After busting up a human trafficking operation, Reacher decides to pay a visit to Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) in Washington DC, only to discover that she's been arrested on charges of espionage. Obviously a set up, Reacher breaks her out of jail right before the bad guys get to her, and the two of them are on the run for the rest of the film trying to clear their names. To complicate matters even more, Reacher has been framed for multiple murders, and ends up protecting a precocious teenage girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who may be his daughter. Working together, Reacher, Turner, and Samantha pull together enough evidence to expose a government cover-up, and Reacher makes sure the bad guys pay for the trouble they've caused.

It's not as entertaining as the first "Jack Reacher" film (2012), but the pacing is solid and having a teenage girl in harm's way ratchets up the tension quite a bit. Tom Cruise fumbles through the film in a daze, trying to maintain a threatening and stoic demeanor while also letting his soft side show through. The possibility of being a father leaves him befuddled and unfocused, and the extent of his acting boils down to an intense stare and a constantly clenched jaw. What's interesting is that he seems perfectly fine with stepping out of the spotlight and letting a very strong and capable group of supporting actors (mostly women) take over and shine. Cobie Smulders is absolutely AMAZING, and she quickly and effortlessly takes ownership of the film. Will someone PLEASE give Ms. Smulders her own action film already? She was the best thing about "The Avengers" (2012) and she's definitely the best thing about this film. Danika Yarosh does an excellent job as an annoying teenager who is always messing up Reacher's plans, but she constantly grows and matures as the film progresses. The other two stand-out roles are Sgt. Leach (Madalyn Horcher) and Lt. Sullivan (Jessica Stroup), who are both gorgeous and strong-willed, and don't put up with Reacher's bullshit.

The writing is weak and overly predictable, and Reacher gets by on a ridiculous and unbelievable amount of good luck more than actual skill. His sense of perception comes across as supernatural at times, which undermines the character's strength and credibility. While the film works well as a thriller, the action scenes are weak and sloppy, and edited so poorly that you can't tell what's going on. By the end of the film, Reacher deserves to take a break, and I'd be surprised if another sequel gets made.