Movie Review: "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"

Updated on July 2, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Theatrical Release: 10/21/2016
Theatrical Release: 10/21/2016 | Source

Synopsis

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) and Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) have worked well together, but they have never met face-to-face. Now that they have accomplished their mission, Jack Reacher visits the military base—where he once served as a military police officer—to meet Major Turner. Once he arrives, he learns that Major Turner has been charged with espionage and has been linked to the deaths of two soldiers serving overseas. However, Jack Reacher has a feeling that she is being framed.

It does not make sense that someone who was willing to risk their career to work with him—as she did—would be accused of the crimes that she has been accused of. Jack Reacher knows the Major is innocent, wants to clear her name, is extremely dangerous himself, and is coming after whoever is responsible for all of this. However, whoever is responsible will surely see Jack Reacher as a threat, one that they will surely want to eliminate. Meanwhile, an old acquaintance of Jack Reacher has reached out to him. She is claiming that Jack Reacher is the father of her child and she has filed a paternity suit to get child support from him.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
The Action (+4pts)
Convenience (-3pts)
Reacher & Cruise (+5pts)
The Antagonist (-5pts)
Turner & The Child (+4pts)
The Ending (-4pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.
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Pro: The Action (+4pts)

The action in this movie was not ground-breaking, but it was pretty good. There was plenty of cool action from beginning to end, and it kept this movie somewhat entertaining through the extreme cheesiness and general ridiculousness of the plot. With an action movie like this, you expect plenty of cheese, you expect an unbelievable plot, and you expect entertaining action. This movie had all of that—with so much cheese that I was honestly surprised that I did not become constipated—but the action was entertaining enough to make the rest tolerable. Was the action mind-blowing or jaw-dropping? Absolutely not, but it was entertaining enough.

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Con: Convenience (-3pts)

This was an action movie with plenty of cheesy and ridiculous moments. I did not expect anything else, but there were also a lot of oddly convenient moments that occurred. These moments were hard to ignore, and smelled like lazy writing. I always have issue when movies have moments like this. They show that the writers had a dilemma, and—rather than write their way around it—they just skip over the problem by making things go really, really conveniently for the characters involved.

The biggest example of this was where Jack Reacher wound up when trying to break Susan Turner out of the detainment facility. Then there was the opportunity that presented itself when he got there. There were more examples of convenient writing sprinkled throughout, but the moments that I just vaguely mentioned were the best examples. These moments were incredibly convenient for the protagonists, but they were just as incredibly convenient for the writers—who clearly needed the plot to go in a very specific direction, so relied on these convenient moments in order to make that happen. Did any of these moments hurt the movie severely? No, but they made for a few head-smacking moments.

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Pro: Reacher & Cruise (+5pts)

I would not go as far as to say that Tom Cruise is a great thespian, as that description is reserved for those who have delivered impressive dramatic performances. However, Tom Cruise is a great action star, and that is exactly what this movie needed from its lead actor. He has more than proven himself as the lead of countless action movies, and is unmatched when it comes to performing his own stunts. He is no stranger to this style of movie, and has proven that he can play these parts well, which made him an excellent casting choice for Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher was a protagonist, but he was also a badass, and he knew it. The scene in the beginning of the trailer sums this character up perfectly. The camera pans across a diner parking lot littered with unconscious men, and the person responsible—Jack Reacher—is just sitting by himself at the counter. The police walk in, he tells the officer in charge that two things are about to happen: the phone in the diner is about to ring, then the officer in charge is going to be the one wearing handcuffs. Both of those things quickly come true, and the scene tells you everything you need to know about the character. He is more than capable in combat (shown by the several men unconscious on the ground), he has a sense of humor (shown by what he said to the police officer in his situation), and he is confident in his ability and his knowledge (shown by his calm behavior when interacting with the police). The character was simply a cool action hero who I enjoyed watching, and Tom Cruise played the part as effectively as you would expect him to.

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Con: The Antagonist (-5pts)

Part of the problem with movies like this is that the antagonist is kept a mystery for most of the movie. This can be fine if the motivations for that antagonist is clear, even if the identity is not. With this movie, I had no idea who the antagonist was, and it was unclear what they were after—other than vague and generic "bad” things that they did. It just seemed like the antagonist had no real goal, which made the movie feel like it had no real plot. Thus, the movie just felt like a couple protagonists reacting to a random series of bad things that were happening to them. Maybe the identity of the antagonist and their motivations were revealed at the end of the movie, but it definitely made the entire rising action feel hollow and meaningless.

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Pro: Turner & The Child (+4pts)

I liked that the story was really all about Major Turner. It was oddly convenient that Major Turner had been talking about Jack Reacher visiting right before getting detained, so Jack Reacher would know something was up. However, I liked that the plot was really about Major Turner, with Jack Reacher simply stumbling into it. Usually everything is all about the main protagonist, which can make the side characters feel somewhat irrelevant, but that was not the case with this movie. For all intents and purposes, this was Major Turner’s story. Jack Reacher just happened to be in it, and I thought that gave the movie some unique flavor.

Then there was the whole potential child thing. It felt pretty random, but it served its purpose of throwing a massive curve-ball into Jack Reacher’s story. He was used to doing his own thing, and handling things himself, so forcing him to need to look after a child definitely threw him off his game a bit. It also gave the character some emotional depth, as it gave Jack Reacher something to care about and risk his life for. It was a pretty straightforward storyline, that kind of came out of nowhere, but it served its purpose.

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Con: The Ending (-4pts)

Okay, I will keep this one brief because nothing is more of a spoiler than giving away how a movie ends. All I will say is that the ending of this movie felt pretty anti-climactic. I think this was partially a result of my issue with the antagonist of this movie, but the movie just did not end on a high note. I thought the first act of this movie—the setup—was really strong, but the rest of the rising action was hollow, and then the story just sort of fizzled out and ended with a pretty unsatisfying conclusion.

Grading Scale

Grade
Category
Points
A+
Amazing
95-100
A-
Great
90-94
B+
Good
85-89
B-
Decent
80-84
C+
Average
75-79
C-
Watchable
70-74
D+
Bad
65-69
D-
Terrible
60-64
F
Garbage
45-59
Source

Grade: C+ (76pts)

This movie was pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. It had all of the cheese that you would expect an action movie like this one to have, and it also had all of the action. That action was not ground-breaking, but it was entertaining enough. I also liked the main character of Jack Reacher—being a confident badass—and I thought Tom Cruise was a no-brainer in terms of casting.

Finally, I liked that this was very much Major Turner’s story, with Jack Reacher just being in it, and I liked the massive wrench—the potential child storyline—that was thrown into Jack Reacher’s life. I thought the plot, however, could have used a lot of work. The antagonist was poorly written, there was a lot of convenient writing, and the ending of the movie felt pretty anti-climactic. It was not a bad movie, as it certainly had its strengths, but it definitely could have been a lot better.

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