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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/31/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/24/2017

I think that we've all said it at least once in our lives -- "They made a second one?" This is the question which is uttered when a sequel is announced to a movie which you didn't think had done very well in the first place. I don't even think that people in Hollywood know how Hollywood works and even they can't explain how sometimes a surprise sequel will emerge from the ether. The 2012 ridiculous action movie Jack Reacher didn't even make back it's budget at the U.S. box office, but here we are, four years later, with a second film. Did this happen simply because someone bought the rights to a book series and wanted to get their money's worth, or was their a legitimate reason for Jack to come back?

Former U.S Army Major-turned-wandering vigilante Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) has received a tip from Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) concerning human trafficking. When Reacher travels to Washington, D.C. to see Turner in person, he learns that she has been arrested for espionage, in a case involving the murders of two soldiers under her watch. Reacher also learns that he's being sued for lack of child support by a woman who claims that he fathered a child with her. While hatching a plan to spring Turner from the brig, Reacher checks on the child in question, teenager Samantha (Danika Yarosh). After Reacher is successful at springing Turner, he finds himself on the run with not only the Major, but Samantha as well, as an assassin known as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) has targeted her. Now, Reacher must not only clear his and Turner's names, but protect this girl as well.

"They made a second one?", I said when I first learned of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Why did I think that? There were a few reasons. I knew that the first film had not performed at the box office like the average Tom Cruise blockbuster. I'd read that fans of the series of Jack Reacher books by Lee Child weren't crazy about Cruise in the lead role, as the literary version of Jack Reacher is 6' 5" and Tom Cruise...is not. And lastly, the movie itself was mediocre at best. But, as hard as it is to believe, Cruise is an international superstar, so the movie most likely made some money and garnered good notices somewhere, thus we have a sequel.

For this sequel, a new creative team has been brought in. Christopher McQuarrie, who helmed the first film, now serves as a producer. Edward Zwick, who directed Cruise in The Last Samurai, slips into the director's chair, and he shares writing credits with his thirtysomething partner Marshall Herskovitz. Let that thought sink in for a moment -- the makers of thirtysomething are responsible for this action movie.

And the result is exactly what you would expect. The word which kept coming to mind while watching the movie was "pedestrian". This is a thoroughly average, nearly paint-by-numbers action/thriller. Once the initial premise is introduced -- which is a standard "wrongly accused, must clear their name" plot -- everything falls into place exactly as you would expect, even down to the final "plot twist". From stolen cars to motel rooms to shootouts to foot chases, the movie checks all of the boxes for an "on the run" movie. "The Hunter" is the average impossibly evil villain, just as every other character is a stereotype.

The one thing that is surprising here is the overall quality of the movie. Zwick is a veteran director, but the editing here is sloppy and amateurish. I noticed a lot of random shots of, well, nothing, at times which felt like someone chopped in some B-roll in order to pad the running time or to salvage a scene in which the available footage wasn't working. Even more obvious were the sections of the film where felt as if things had been cut out. The ultimate example here is the scene in which our fugitives arrives at the airport, steal a guy's wallet and they are suddenly on a plane. I know that this isn't a documentary, but that's not how it works, brother. I show up with my ID and I still have trouble. I can't help but feel that there was more to their plot, but we were simply asked to accept the fact that three people made it through security with one stolen license. These oddities, combined with the vanilla feel of the movie, create an experience which is wholly unsatisfying. I suppose that the fact that buying Tom Cruise as a tough guy is not the film's biggest issue is a good thing, but that won't distract you from the other flaws. The bad news is that this movie brought in nearly the exact same amount of money as the first film, so that means that a third one may be in the future.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back makes interstate travel look far too easy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is especially impressive here, as the actors are definitely separate from the backgrounds. The level of detail is noteworthy as well. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound and stereo effects really come to life during the chase sequences, and we are often treated to individual sounds coming from the rear channels. These scenes also provide appreciable, but not overbearing subwoofer effects.

The Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. "Reacher Returns" (12 minutes) examines the character, and takes a look at how this particular was chosen and developed. This includes interviews with the principals involved, including Author Lee Child. "An Unexpected Family" (15 minutes) takes us through the characters in the film, specifically how Reacher must "reach" out to other people here. "Relentless: On Location in Louisiana" (26 minutes) offers a wealth of on-set footage as it takes us through multiple locations, showing where several key scenes were shot. We get a look at the stunts and the fight choreography in "Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat" (13 minutes). "No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle" (8 minutes) takes us on-set for a detailed look at the finale. "Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James" (9 minutes) profiles the set photographer and shows him at work.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long