When he’s not hanging from the side of a plane as Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise moonlights as the hard-as-nails hero of Lee Child’s best-selling thriller series. A former army major turned drifter, Jack Reacher was introduced on the big screen in 2012, but you don’t need to have seen Christopher McQuarrie’s take on the ninth Reacher novel, One Shot – Never Go Back is an adaptation of the eighteenth Reacher book, so continuity isn’t a concern.
Cruise’s Reacher is an arrogant, nuggety human battering ram with a gimlet eye and a permanent scowl (some might say the perfect fit for Cruise); he’s not really likeable but he gets the job done. Drop him into any situation and he’ll come out fighting, and that’s exactly what happens when he has to bust an old army colleague (Cobie Smulders) out of military prison after she’s been accused of treason.
Reacher has also been framed for murder, and the pair go on the run to clear their name and expose a conspiracy involving a big military contractor and a pair of murdered soldiers in Afghanistan.
He also discovers he has a 15-year-old daughter (Danika Yarosh), who will of course be threatened or abducted for leverage sooner rather than later.
Cobie Smulders, basically playing her S.H.I.E.L.D agent from Avengers here, is as tough as Reacher and a good match for Cruise. Throw the teenager into the mix and it’s an instant dysfunctional family.
We’ve seen this kind of espionage/chase thriller a million times before. The hired goons trailing Reacher are the generic beards and sunglasses stereotypes, and there’s even a rooftop showdown during a New Orleans Halloween parade. There’s also never a sense that Reacher is in any real danger, given he’s capable of overpowering any adversary and escaping from any lock-up, busting heads with impunity.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is enjoyable enough in the moment, but you’ll have forgotten all about it by the time you reach the car park.
In cinemas: October 20, 2016
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh
Directed by: Edward Zwick