Tom Cruise at some point in time was attached to the “Iron Man” movie. Yeah, I know. Anyhow, the man, the legend, the thespian who jumped on Oprah’s couch and back in the 80’s made many join the Navy and buy leather jackets fit for pilots, is stuck in a time-loop. And he refuses to move on and try other genres. In a personal effort to remain relevant when studios march on the superhero trend, Cruise fights to keep relevant the action stars who make or break a picture. Is his fight still relevant or he should just live and let die this quest?
“I’m the guy you didn’t count on!” (Jack Reacher)
The plot of this new chapter is something we’ve seen before. Reacher is thrown into a mix of military conspiracies involving high ranking officers, mercenaries and a possible daughter, Jack didn’t need right now. Add Cobie Smulders character, a top notch major with heart, guts, skills and sass and we have a tale oozing old school action flicks and a lot of trips down Cruise movie memory lane. It has so much “A Few Good Men” innuendos and feels, one might have hoped at some point, Jack Nicholson would have popped up for a cameo and Tom would recite the famous quips. It’s all there, with the army and sass and one Tom Cruise refusing to let go of the past he so much enjoys.
We’ve seen it for the past years, you pick up beloved movies and reboot the crap out of them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a nightmare but the public is hungry. From “Jurassic World” to “Creed” to news of a sequel to “Top Gun” and more. Even the Vampire Chronicles are finally stirred from their slumber yet Tom Cruise is doing what he thinks he does best. The action star in action movies, kicking ass and taking names. At least, we’ve left behind the damsel in distress trope with Smulders being a partner and less of a love interest, ogling over Cruise and grinning at the sight of his ripped physique. It’s a joy to actually see Smulders in this type of role but…it’s falling into a pattern. We now she can do action scenes, Maria Hill is one of the in the background characters fans would love to see more. We know she can act and deliver on a role if the script does justice and in this case, it’s a fun type of character who fits with Reacher without losing herself in the Cruise stardom.
The problems start with adding more to the tale. And we have a good old case of a Marie Sue – in case you don’t know what a Marie Sue is, let’s just say she a cautionary tale of how not to construct a female character and burden her with too may traits, powers and moans – gone bad. Samantha (Danika Yarosh) is Reacher’s could be daughter and here we jump into the famous trope of the lost kid reunited with his/hers father/mother and showing that the kid is indeed the progeny of the famous parent by adding a few traits she genetically borrowed from said parent. You know, in case if it’s not enough to add looks and a tale, sprinkle sass and personal traits so that the main character can squint his eyes and ask himself “what the fuck”. Samantha is too much and not necessary. A simple vehicle used to construct the third act and add some personal emotion to Reacher, just in case the audience might feel he’s stone cold and uncaring.
The character problem continues with the cardboard villain, flat and flawed with every villain trope known: he’s got a British accent, he’s a mercenary, he’s ruthless, he’s sadistic, he’s a sociopath and instead of actually making him a foil for Reacher, you simply don’t care of what Patrick Heusinger is trying to accomplish, at least he looks good while killing people but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to bring Robert Knepper to the game and stuck him in a few scenes just to push the classic plot of mixing the army with unsavory army deals.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” tries to work the holiday spirit and goes for a mix of “look, it’s Halloween” with the “isn’t it?” moment with New Orleans – ’cause Tom Cruise was Lestat and feelings are still strong around the city and the character. Maybe the North was used enough in plenty of action flicks and it’s time to diversify and try the South. It’s not a bad idea. During the movie when one saw the DC areas, thoughts of Captain America: Thee Winter Soldier hung in the air.
Edward Zwick and Tom Cruise try too much with too little to begin with. Reacher uses a lot of Tom’s still untapped potential as an anti-hero going slightly villainy type of role and struggles to keep him in the Ethan Hunt rut. It’s like Cruise refuses to try something else and returns to what he enjoys the most in a series of roles designed to perpetuate the everlasting image of the action hero with human powers in the age of superheroes. It’s a valiant effort but it fails to offer more than a few smirks, smiles and trips down memory lane and the end of the movie, you’re left hallow and unimpressed. It’s something you’ve seen before and you hoped for more from Tom Cruise.