Jack Reacher: Never Go Back review

Tom Cruise may be in his 50s now (at the time of writing he's actually 54) but he's still very much a big-screen action man – and yes Cruise fans, this sequel to 2012's Jack Reacher does see him doing a fair bit of running and plenty of fighting. The action kicks off after Reacher comes to the aid of Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) at the Washington base he used ro run after she's accused of murder and espionage. Reacher breaks her out of jail and the pair go on the run (some hitmen are on their trail, as well as the army) and set about clearing Turner's name. Complicating matters is the fact that Reacher is also facing a paternity suit over a daughter he never even knew he had.

Despite all the complaints at the time that Tom Cruise was entirely the wrong actor to portray Jack Reacher (the character in the novels is much taller, bigger built and has lighter hair), the first film was surprisingly decent - particularly flor us who had never read any of Lee Child's books. This sequel brings more of the same, with a solid but mostly "seen it all before" vibe. It's a decent mystery thriller with loads of action (and yes, lots of Cruise running), fights and gunplay, but it doesn't feel all that revolutionary or evolutionary; we've seen much of it before, and we are sure to see it again many, many times. What is refreshing is Smulders and the treatment of her character (as well as her performance). We spent nine years loving Smulders as Robin Scherbatsky on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and she showed us her arse-kicking skillas as SHIELD agent Maria Hill in the Avengers films, but here she gets to take it up a notch as Turner. She's a charismatic actress, and she dominates every scene she's in – partly because Cruise plays reacher as the strong, silent type, a man of few words who rarely smiles. It also helps that Reacher sees her as an equal and develops a real respect for her, and in a rare move for a film of this type, there is not even a hint of romance between these two characters.

Also good is Danika Yarosh as Samantha, the is-she-or-isn't-she Reacher's daughter who accidentally finds hersalf drawn into events and on the run with Reacher and Turner. It could have been just another angsty-teen role, but Yarosh brings real grit and sass to the part. Less great are the bad guys, particularly Robert Knepper as the main evil-doer hunting down our heroes (we never learn his name). He's underused here, which is a shame as he's great when he's on screen. Director Edward Zwick, who shot The Last Samurai with Cruise, keeps the film moving along at a fair pace and handles the action scenes and plot revelations well. And even though Never Look Back doesn't quite reach the same heights as the first outing, it's still a decent enough action film that manages to entertain without being surprising.

EXTRAS: There's no audio commentary, deleted scenes or a gag reel, but there is a decent selection of featurettes - Reacher Returns (11:31), which has interviews with Tom Cruise, author Lee Childs and others discussing the character of Reacher; An Unexpected Family (14:31), which looks at Reacher's relationships with Samantha and Turner; Relentless: On Location In Louisiana (25:46), which explores the shooting locations; Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat (12:42), which explores some of the action and fight scenes; No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle (8:13), which is a behind-the-scenes look at the finale in New Orleans; Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James (8:33), a look at on-set still photography.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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