Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

Four years ago the movie Jack Reacher hit theaters, receiving average reviews from critics and an underwhelming opening weekend of $15.2 million, which is not good when your budget is $60 million. It was an attempted start at a franchise being that this is based off a series books by Lee Child that will be 21 books long come next month. This prospect of a failed franchise attempt really upset me because I thought the movie was a solid action/detective movie that was right in my ballpark. I gave the movie a solid 8/10 when I reviewed it back in January of 2013, which is a score I stand by after further viewings. I wanted more Jack Reacher movies. I wanted this to be the next Bond-esque series and I was sad that this wasn't going to happen. But then the movie had an incredible run at the box office, ending up with $80.1 million here in the U.S. box office after that middling $15.2 million. But that's not the end of the story, it would up earning an additional $138.3 million overseas for a grand total of $218.3 million worldwide. Thus the sequel was justified and I couldn't be happier! I impatiently waited nearly four years for more Jack Reacher and... I feel like I got punched in the gut at the result. This movie isn't good and that's frustrating.

I wasn't bothered by the fact that Jack Reacher: Never Go Back had bad reviews. The first one's Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 60 percent and that is certainly way too low. Of course they were going to hate the sequel as well, right? I went in unfazed. I was still excited. Turns out they were right this time. Kind of. A score of 39 percent is a bit low. It probably deserves a score closer to what the first one got. Either way, though, I was expecting much more. Jack Reacher was based on the 9th book in the series, One Shot, while Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is based off the 18th book in the series, Never Go Back, which was the first book released after the release of the first movie. Jack Reacher is a man who never calls one place home and always gets himself into trouble. I've never read any of the books, but I do kinda want to. In this movie Jack Reacher is on the phone with a new female commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. When he goes to meet her, he learns that she has been arrested for espionage and he also soon after gets arrested. So of course he breaks both of them out and they go on an adventure trying to figure out the mystery behind these arrests. And Jack also learns that he might have a 15-year-old daughter that complicates things even more.

That's a premise that's interesting enough. On paper anyways. I certainly wasn't expecting anything super deep or crazy. I just wanted a fun, action-packed detective thriller. Like your basic James Bond or Sherlock Holmes type of movie. That's what the first one felt like. There were a lot of great moments in that film and it was a movie that had me guessing throughout as far as what was going on. This time around I was bored. It wasn't a well constructed plot. I don't know if it was the source material that wasn't that great or that it was just a poor adaptation. Whatever it was, there were a lot of scenes that took place that just didn't make any sense to the plot or were completely useless when you look back on the movie. Then the pacing and editing was off. There were times where it would be a slow burner but then suddenly things picked up without any warning or without an effective transition. And the build up to certain events wasn't handled well. There were certain portions of the movie where I was fighting to stay awake because nothing interesting was happening. In the first movie each scene built off the last scene and kept me engaged throughout. In this movie I was not engaged and the journey itself was really rocky. The movie was sloppy and boring.

Then you have the whole idea of it being a whodunit, mystery thriller. That was one of the huge positives of the first movie. In that movie, we have a guy who has been framed for murder. We as an audience know about it right away, but Jack Reacher doesn't and it's thrilling to watch him connect all the dots and come up with what really happened. As I said, with this mystery and drama, each scene builds off the last one and thus grabs your attention from the very beginning and never lets you go. With this sequel, there is another mystery set up. Who framed Major Turner for espionage and why? Is Jack Reacher really a father? And why did he get arrested as well. There were things to solve here and unfortunately I didn't give a crap. The scenes didn't build on one other. It was just a scrambled mess and I gave up early on even thinking about the mystery part of the movie. It was completely uninteresting. The action scenes in the movie were fun, but at the same time there's not one action scene that stands out like the car chase in the first one. It's just a bunch of brainless action that you forget about shortly after leaving the theater. I didn't want this franchise to become nothing but brainless action. I wanted a smart, fun mystery thriller with good action as a supplement.

As far as our cast goes, I think Tom Cruise did just fine. He's one of the best actors in the business right now and always brings a certain charm and charisma to his characters and that's the same here to a certain extent. I didn't seem like he cared as much for this movie, so I can't call this a great performance, but I would probably blame that more on him not having much to work with. We did have a director change from Christopher McQuarrie to Edward Zwick. That might be part of the problem. Zwick has made plenty of good movies, but I think he dropped the ball on this one. Tom Cruise's costar and love interest is Cobie Smulders as Major Turner and she did great. They didn't have good chemistry at first, but I think that was the whole. They both experienced some good character growth that I did appreciate and they ended up working well together. Tom Cruise is old enough to be Cobie's father in real life, but it wasn't weird this time because Tom Cruise is the youngest 54-year-old you'll ever meet. He's like forever 35, which is why he worked well with the 34-year-old Cobie. Same story with Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, actually. It's impressive. I'm sure it makes millions of 54-year-old men around the world super jealous.

I suppose it's unfair to call this an awful movie. It's not. The 39 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes is a bit lower than it deserves. But this is a movie that I was anticipating for nearly four years. I didn't need a masterpiece. I just wanted a movie on the caliber of the first Jack Reacher and I didn't get that. Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders did just fine and they experience some good growth. And I also liked the young girl played by Danika Yarosh that was with them as well, even though she had a habit of getting them into trouble time and time again. That's what teenage girls do, right? But it worked for me. Her and Tom Cruise share a great moment at the end, which gave me some feel goods. But outside this, the movie as a whole was a bit of a mess. The action scenes were fine, but they didn't stand out. They tried to set up a mystery thriller, but I ended up not caring about that at all. The pacing was rocky and unbalanced and the individual scenes didn't continually build on each other like in the last movie. Instead we just wandered aimlessly and made it hard for me to stay awake at times. I hope this isn't a franchise killer because I want them to learn from this and make a better third movie. As far as this second movie goes, though, I'm going to sadly give it a 6/10.

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