SOLID ACTION FLICK
Film Review by Fiore
By every stretch of the imagination, this series should not work. Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series is a liberal, anti-gun Brit who writes about an American hero who embodies the fist-thumping, gun-shooting take no prisoners attitudes enveloping this country. So, there is a dichotomy between the character and the author’s personas. Reacher is described as six foot, six inches, 250 pounds of solid muscle, with blond hair, blue eyes and hair buzzed short in military fashion. He reads like a fictional account of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who once, long ago, was considered for the role. Instead, we have Tom Cruise, who is a great actor, but falls considerably short on Reacher’s description.
When the first Jack Reacher film was released, I moaned about the casting. The film was solid, though, fit nicely in the action genre, and Cruise pulled off the portrayal. So, even though the series has two glaring hurdles, it is proving to be a franchise Cruise can ride, much in the vein of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. He fills the part of Reacher nicely, even though he is nowhere near the novel’s description. And, Child continues to impress with his writing on subjects that are not near and dear to his heart; unless, of course he is following Hillary’s method of saying one thing to your audience while thinking a completely different thing when in private conversations. (Hope he isn’t keeping his emails on an unsecure personal server.)
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is the second in the series, and it stands well with the first endeavor. Director Edward Zwick has fashioned a fast-paced action yarn surrounding illegal gun sales in the Middle East. It seems there is always a company, or greedy businessman, willing to deal with our enemies if the price is right. Just ask Bob Barker.
Cruise returns as Reacher, an ex-military nomad who wanders the Earth, staying off the grid, and helping people whenever he can; sort of like Caine, in KUNG FU, if Caine were in modern times and a member of Delta Force. Cruise plays this role well, always seeming to be in control, regardless of the odds stacked against him. This contrasts with his portrayal of Ethan Hunt, who frequently looks like John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE, when the horse dies of a heart attack.
This time around, Reacher is drawn into a mass conspiracy when one of his military associates, Major Susan Turner, played by Cobie Smulders, is framed for treason. Reacher launches an all-out assault on the military infections who have suddenly become venture capitalists, headed by General Harkness, played by Robert Knepper. Reacher’s major (pardon the pun) stumbling block is The Hunter, played by Patrick Heusinger, who is an ex-special ops agent with the impression taking out Reacher could win him the World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
To further complicate the confrontation with The Hunter, there is a subplot about a young girl, Samantha Dayton, played by Danika Yarosh, who may or may not be Reacher’s bastard child.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE FIGHT IN THE BOX CAR
2. THE OPENING DINER SCENE
3. THE AIRPLANE
It is generally not good for a movie adaptation to follow its original medium. Film is its own visual representation, and should be treated as such, while still honoring the original work. The Reacher series seems to be the exception to the rule. Both films have followed the novels they were derived from very closely; yet despite having less time to develop the tale, screenwriter Richard Wenk, with a little help from the director, manages to keep all those who want to see the book on film happy. No easy feat.
Henry Jackman provides the music. He is aided by having a portion of the film, including the climax, take place in New Orleans, where he can mix swamp blues, and swing jazz riffs into the melodies. Oliver Wood is a seasoned vet behind the camera, and he shoots JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK with aplomb, especially on the fight scenes, where you can easily tell what is happening and who is winning, unlike Matt Damon’s horrific action scenes in the JASON BOURNE series.
A word here about the fight scenes. They are rather brutal, but effective. When you watch the film, notice the frequent use of hammer fist attacks. These are hard strikes designed to incapacitate an opponent quickly. Much more realistic than the often-stylistic fighting presented in movies. While some may comment Reacher’s fight scenes seem primary, they are instead basic. No dancing; no showing off. Although, they do allow Reacher one sweet leg sweep take down on The Hunter. There is nothing here that will rival Ben Affleck’s belt fight in THE ACCOUNTANT, but realize if you are in a serious fight to the death, these are the techniques you will use. They are very reminiscent of the fight choreography used by Jean-Claude Van Damme in NOWHERE TO RUN, which was staged by Kali and Escrima expert Dan Innosanto, who I trained with, back in the day. But, I digress…
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is a most excellent action film. Like most action films, at times the timeline is ignored. For example, could Reacher and Turner make it from the airport to the downtown hotel, while a Junkanoo parade is occurring in mere minutes? Doubtful. But no action film should ever be slowed down by realistic traffic considerations.
So, timelines aside, you’ll enjoy this second, in what should be a most excellent series. Decent story, solid acting and plenty of action. JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK will make a great date night, or even a solid bro night. Enjoy, this one is highly recommended.
THE GRADE FOR JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK = A