Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher Never Go Back 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back [2016], a Tom Cruise action movie, full of espionage, assassins, and big-time crime, but supposedly not a Mission Impossible movie. Apparently, it’s a sequel, but the title leaves that pretty ambiguous; I only know thanks to IMDb. It’s about ex-major Jack Reacher - played by Tommy, of course - stumbling across some suspicious goings-on in the military justice system and the hijinks that ensue.

Placemat - I mean, characters: Our titular Tommy Cruise character is a gruff, world-weary ex-soldier, glad to have left the service but still wandering the highways doing good deeds in quirky small towns across America. So he’s a good guy, right? You can like a good guy, yeah? Well, when said good guy is constantly down in the dumps, then not so much. He’s not funny, he’s not energetic, he’s not admirable. He’s just a downer. We’re watching this movie to be entertained, he’s not doing his job. Doesn’t exactly leave you hoping for his survival. You’ll get the same from the rest of the good guys; bad moods, occasionally broken up with something entertaining, like a joke or admirable moment. So, not likable; we don’t even want to hang around these guys. Great start. Even if we did, though, I rather doubt that a story like this could have done something good with them, considering the writing.

Saw it comin’: Now, we all know that in a fictional battle of good vs. evil, good is liable to win, that’s just the standard. What can make or break such a story is the how of it all. One of those hows could be unpredictability. Surprises are great, right? Seeing those surprises coming, not so much. In this movie, you see it coming. Action scenes will pull the focus off of the good guys, making it obvious that they’re doing something sneaky. Characters behave oddly, making it obvious that a twist is coming. We’ve even got a full-on, glaringly-obvious Chekov’s Gun (have a gun, will shoot) moment. If we see all of this stuff before it happens, then we already know what kind of reaction we’re supposed to have. Only, we’re not gonna have it, ‘cause being surprised is kinda necessary to the formula. So, bland characters and a predictable story. Do we at least get good action? That’s what we paid for, after all.

Those are some boring fireworks: Now, the purpose of the action is obvious: to be exciting. Well, the characters are crap, so we aren't biting our nails when they get shot at. We know how a lot of it’s gonna end, so we aren't at the edges of our seat. Is it at least spectacular to look at? That depends, do you find it more exciting to watch someone else play video games? That’s basically what the action here is designed like. It just uses standard, eye-level, average-speed camera-work to follow the action. We just watch chases scenes and gun fights at arm’s-length. There’s no intricate movement to focus on, no intimate closeness and no high-speed sequences; nothing to make us feel involved. Even a heap of crap like Fury [2014] or The Force Awakens [2015] had all of that in its action scenes. In those movies, you needed to pay attention to see what was going on. There was no sitting back and relaxing during the action, there was a welcome need to focus just enough to see what was going on, but still being able to see it all. Here, the action is as bland as the story.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is two hours’ worth of one of the deadly cinematic sins: being boring.