The creative team on this sequel should have heeded the warning ironically contained within the title. “Never Go Back”
The book on which these films are based is a long running and rather well-received series. Lee Child (who has small cameos in both films) writes Reacher as a 6’-5”, 230lb “unstoppable force of nature.” Many chuckled when diminutive Tom Cruise was first cast as this character, but his ability to sell both the dialogue and crotch-punches made up for his stature. 2012’s “Jack Reacher” (based on the novel “One Shot”) didn’t really stand out from a number of other similar films, except for it’s extremely pulpy and clever dialogue. In the best of ways, it -felt- like a book. The script had a cadence that is unique to a certain type of literature. It also featured an extremely memorable villain named played by none other than Werner Herzog who had a blind eye, only a few digits left on each hand, and an accent dripping with menace.
Sadly, everything that made the previous film enjoyable, has been left behind. Sure, Tom Cruise is back, but there’s only so much he can bring to a film when the pseudo-witty dialogue has been reduced to the lowest common denominator and the editing has been performed with a dull hatchet. What happened!? Perhaps the best scene is the pre-title opening sequence, but it soon begins to sound like he’s channeling Chris Evans’ character from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
The occasional wit soon gives away to tired cliches, random people being far too helpful (prevent plot stalls), and random running. Lots of running. Enough to make the Summer Olympics envious. Running down streets, through parks, by famous landmarks, on tarmacs, and across rooftops. All this running is framed around a very shaky plot.
Like the movie itself, it starts out good. A military investigation leads to the execution of two MPs overseas, and the unjust incarceration of a D.C. Major (Cobie Smulders) that Reacher’s never met, but has been flirting on the phone with. In a typical government/military contractor conspiracy,the more you learn, the more all the pieces fall into place. But by the end of the film, once all the facts have been laid bare, you’re left asking “Why did ANY of this happen?” Without revealing too much, the villain’s alibi is called into question ONLY because they decide to start murdering everyone who asks questions regarding their alibi.
Further complicating (padding?) the plot is the revelation that Reacher might be a deadbeat dad. Considering his strong commitment to justice, dedication to self-preservation, and that fact that he’s shared little more than a kiss in two films, how are we to believe that he may have possibly fathered a child with a woman he doesn’t know, 15 years ago?
The flawed logic, bad editing, inconsistent timelines, and incredibly generic dialog piles on for nearly two hours at which it ends with a few final brow-furling scenes. At least Cobie Smulders holds her own during it, but frankly, she deserves better.