Jack Reacher: Never Go Back review – Tom Cruise delivers solid throwback follow-up

Tom Cruise is on top form while Cobie Smulders more than holds her own.

Tom Cruise and Colbie Smulders in Jack Reacher.
Jack Reacher is back Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders star. Image Paramount

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
118 minutes (12A)
★★★

If 2012’s Jack Reacher had arrived 20 years earlier, it would have been heralded as a classic.

A throwback to the era when the likes of Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford delivered politically-charged action thrillers by the truckload, there was something undeniably retro about Reacher with his white t-shirt, lonely motel lifestyle and penchant for payphones.

Written by Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie, himself something of a 90s throwback, it proved to be a slow burner at the box office before ultimately turning a handsome profit, paving the way for this sequel.

McQuarrie produces this time round, with Edward Zwick stepping in to co-write and direct this latest big screen adaptation involving Lee Child’s titular military man gone rogue.

Zwick worked with Cruise on 2003’s The Last Samurai and with credits like Courage Under Fire and The Siege to his name, he’s in familiar territory here and a safe pair of hands to have around.

The story sees Reacher on the run from the authorities along with Major Susan Turner (Smulders) in a plot that takes in friendly-fire murders, dodgy arms deals and private contractors – the go-to villains in any military-led thriller these days.

Along the way Cruise’s Reacher has to contend with a potential daughter he never knew he had and any number of generic ex-soldier henchmen spoiling for a fight.

Though fans of the Lee Child books may disagree, Cruise has always looked a good fit for Reacher and it’s no different here.

Largely silent and stoic throughout, the most impressive aspect of Cruise’s performance is the enduring physicality which sees him, at 54, more than holding his own in the kind of fight scenes synonymous with Jason Bourne.

Smulders also impresses in an expanded role as Reacher’s ass-kicking would-be sidekick with the pair enjoying good on-screen chemistry that, thankfully, goes beyond purely romantic notions.

Though it’s in the film’s action scenes in which Never Go Back really impresses, Cruise also imbues the character with a sense of self-imposed exile and loneliness that adds an extra dimension to the otherwise standard genre tropes.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher
Diner delights The film's opening gambit Image Paramount

Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, as the owner of the shadowy military contractors at the heart of the film’s main conspiracy, is criminally underused, though he was always going to struggle following up Werner Herzog’s brilliantly bonkers performance as the original movie’s main villain.

Patrick Heusinger also underwhelms as The Hunter, a fearsome assassin in the book who is reduced to the role of glove-wearing generic hitman here – a position previously filled by Jai Courteney who, dare we say it, did a better job in the first film.

A solid, if slightly unspectacular thriller that borrows from everything including A Few Good Men to The Fugitive, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back may be a little daft in places but will undoubtedly appeal to filmgoers of a certain age.

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.