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Newest Jack Reacher is a Brooding, By-the-Numbers Bore

Newest <i>Jack Reacher</i> is a Brooding, By-the-Numbers Bore

In a season of promising Oscar contenders, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back feels like a disposable summer flick that's shown up at the wrong party. 2 out of 5.


Bad guys beware, Jack Reacher is back and he’s on a whole new mission. Set four years after the events of the first film, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns to D.C. in hopes of visiting his old colleague, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). Upon arrival, Reacher discovers Turner has been arrested on charges of espionage, giving our stalwart hero no choice but to break her out and prove her innocence. Their mission takes an awkward turn, however, when Reacher discovers he may have a previously-unknown daughter who's being targeted by nefarious forces. With the past and present colliding around him, Reacher will do whatever it takes to protect his friends and see that justice is meted out.

What Works?

Jack Reacher stories have always adhered to a simple plot. The good guys win, the bad guys lose, with a healthy serving of action stirred in to add flavor. Not only that, Reacher himself is a fairly straightforward protagonist. He's going to do whatever it takes to get things done, even if it means judo-chopping every goon the bad guys throw at him. If viewers aren't in the mood for award-bait films like the ones currently appearing in theaters, Jack Reacher offers a welcome escape into mindless adventure.

What Doesn't?

Even by summer movie standards, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is pretty dull. The original film offered viewers a small mystery to unravel, but its sequel is woefully predictable. Instead, the film chooses to focus on the romantic chemistry between Reacher and Turner, which is unfortunate, because there is none. Both Cruise and Smulders muddle through their paces with all the enthusiasm of coma patients. The addition of the long-lost daughter does nothing to improve matters either. Samantha (Danika Yarosh) serves largely as a second McGuffin for Reacher to chase after, and any attempts to make her character interesting backfire. Reacher himself seems completely apathetic about being a parent, preferring to run from one fight scene to another with only a few words of stilted dialogue.

Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes

Though the concept of family is discussed, none of the characters ever explore the idea in any detail. Military honor does serve as one of the film's central virtues, but even the good guys are willing to break rank if it means achieving their goals.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality, language, and drug abuse 
  • Language/Profanity: Almost every curse is used once, Di*head, F--k, Sh*t, Son of a B*, A*hole, Bull S*t, the Lord’s name taken in vain.
  • Sexuality/Nudity: Reacher arrests a corrupt sheriff for human trafficking; Jack allegedly has a daughter (it’s later revealed he’s not the father); a mention of prostitution; Turner is shown in a bra and a bathrobe, Jack is shown shirtless, Jack takes a shower (nothing is shown), Samantha asks Turner if she's a lesbian and then if she and Jack are “friends with benefits”, Jack and Turner fantasize about a date, innuendo is made, Jack says he "remembers the women he sleeps with."
  • Violence/Frightening/Intense: Jack is very aggressive and beats down goons in a variety of ways, two soldiers are murdered by gunshot, another man is beaten to death, numerous people are shot, many people are beaten, an intense car chase, a military convoy is blown up, a man is strangled with a hose, a girl is threatened with a gun, Jack tackles a man off a roof, Jack viscously breaks the arms, legs, and neck of a man.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: A military contractor is revealed to be smuggling heroin, a man is shown to be a heroin addict, a mention of drug charges, Reacher drinks beer, he and Turner share champagne. Wine is offered.

The Bottom Line

RECOMMENDED FOR: Jack Reacher fans; those looking for mindless action; soldiers.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Deep thinkers, children, families, people looking for something new and innovative, those uncomfortable with violence.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, directed by Edward Zwick, opened in theaters October 21, 2016; available for home viewing January 31, 2017. It runs 118 minutes and stars Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, and Patrick Heusinger. Watch the trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back here.

Ryan Duncan is Entertainment Editor for

Publication date: October 21, 2016