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Is anyone really off the grid, these days?  Jack Reacher is trying his best to find out; disconnected from all the mod cons like PCs and cell phones and disassociating himself from inconvenient personal connections like friends or family.  Trouble is, he canít stop his better angels from telling him what to do. In the opening sequence of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, our hero is enjoying a quiet cup of coffee after single-handedly decimating a gang of border militiamen, then uses his remaining military connections to round up the head of the immigrant slaving ring those men attempted in vain to protect. 

As a former officer, Reacherís disillusionment with the military isnít enough to keep him from forming an oddly direct flirtation with Major Susan Turner, the good egg who aids Reacherís heroic endeavours with intel and logistical support.  Propelled by basic human loneliness and Turnerís sexy voice, Reacher hitchhikes across the country for the dinner Turner has promised him.  Unfortunately, he arrives a little too late for their rendezvous as the soldier has been hauled off to the hoosegow on an espionage charge.  She is accused of selling secrets to enemy forces in Afghanistan and orchestrating the murder of her own troops, none of which makes any sense to Reacher, whose many phone conversations with Turner cause him to side with her, sight unseen.

As possible witnesses who can clear Turnerís name start popping up dead, Reacher sniffs out a trail that leads to a private military contractor, whose stable of extremely efficient killers will not stop until theyíve eliminated Turner, Reacher, and anyone associated with them, including the potential daughter Reacherís been surprised into discovering.  Promptly springing Turner from jail, the pair scoop up the endangered kid and run all over the country seeking who framed Turner, whilst trying to stay one step ahead of the deadly assassins.

The most remarkable thing about Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is how Cruise virtually hands the spotlight over to costar Cobie Smulders, who plays the dedicated, wronged Major Turner, still grieving over being the one whose command inadvertently led to the death of two of her soldiers.  There is Cruise, finally looking his 54 years; thicker round the middle than heís ever been onscreen (Outside of Tropic Thunder, that is) and skin softly sagging over his chiseled features. (Strangely, in some of his growled delivery and perhaps unconscious squint, heís starting to resemble his action ancestor, Clint Eastwood.)  Smulders, whose star rose after playing Nick Furyís right hand (and left eye) in Marvelís The Avengers, is not only taller and younger than Cruise, but in all of the many - many! - exhausting scenes of the pair running at top speed away from the bad guys, sheís outpacing him.  It brought to mind the similar focus on Emily Bluntís tough heroine in Cruiseís Edge of Tomorrow.  

We do have one awkward scene of the tiresome, inevitable flare-up between Turner and Reacher when she accuses him of keeping her out of danger because sheís a woman, which is kind of supported when Smulders, last seen hugging and comforting the endangered daughter, takes an inexplicably long time to back up Reacher, who is busy having an obligatory hand-to-hand showdown with the main bad guy, who takes Reacherís efficiency at manslaughter as a personal challenge. 

Actually, the rendering of all the ladies in the film, Turner, Samantha, Reacherís resourceful maybe-spawn, and a spritely Sergeant who helps Reacher spring Turner, is far more satisfying than nearly all the males in the film, including the shockingly generic and unmemorable villains (I recuse the excellent Aldis Hodge, doing his best as underwritten MP caught in the crossfire).  By filmís end, I could totally see a spinoff series starring Smuldersí Major Turner character.

The action is not necessarily wall to wall, but sufficient, and Cruise makes sure that you can see itís him in most of the fight shots.  The sparing and rather less-than-bombastic thrills leaves us with the characters to ponder and the comical, often-contentious banter between Reacher and pretty much everyone he meets, is one of the movieís highlights.  Cruiseís deadpan delivery of our heroís oblivious, sometimes scathingly blunt dialog, even when heís trying to show he cares, is a good laugh. 

Heís got great chemistry with both Smulders and young Danika Yarosh as the unwitting trouble magnet who might or might not be Reacherís baby girl, and scenes like his being shut out of a girlsí night in as the two ladies bond are more amusing than the warmed-over, evil war-profiteer committing dirty deeds in the desert plotline.

For an action film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back sports the bare minimum of athletic feats, roughneck grappling and cinematic bombast, but is still entertaining on the big screen mainly due to the considerable charm of its leads.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

October 20th, 2016



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