While not a huge box office success, 2012’s solid Jack Reacher earned enough to warrant a sequel no one asked for, and four years later, here it is: an adaptation of Lee Child’s 2013 novel Never Go Back. The creative team behind this second instalment have bafflingly elected to lumber their film with the oddly self-serving – but sadly not self-aware – subtitle, as if director Edward Zwick and his lot were goading critics to call out a case of nominative determinism and wheel out a few easy puns.
What’s problematic is that, even fighting every instinct to not walk through that opened door, the Never Go Back title is fitting: Zwick has directed a predictable mainstream thriller that is generic in the extreme. Not that it’s irredeemably bad: this tale about a conspiracy within the military which makes Tom Cruise’s titular drifting ex-US major return to the fold is always watchable, but it’s also inoffensively bland. It feels like Cruise is on autopilot throughout, in a bid to pad out his schedule and bide his time before a new Mission: Impossible film and that Edge of Tomorrow follow-up which, unlike this, sounds like a genuinely worthwhile sequel. The 54-year-old star is more than competent in the action scenes, and while there is merit in wanting to pull off a pulpy, no-nonsense actioner, there’s no excuse for an execution this pedestrian. It only has a pulse in the visceral climatic fist-fight, in which every conceivable effort is made to make the hits land; sadly, by then it’s too late and the sequel has inadvertently embraced its ballsy moniker. There really was no need to go back and there is no good reason for you to either.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back | Directed by Edward Zwick (USA, 2016) with Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders. Starts November 10.