The film sees Reacher (Cruise) pulled back into action, after he intends to visit his regular contact Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), however upon arrival he finds she has been imprisoned under espionage charges. Smelling a rat, Reacher looks into her case and finds himself pulled in and incriminated too, which forces he and Turner on the run to solve this mystery. There is no avoiding it, this second adaptation of Child's novels is a far more generic offering than the last film. Essentially the plot can be summarised in the words "corrupt officials" but as clichéd as it often is, Never Look Back is a watchable sequel that ought to pass the time, if not linger strong in the memory.
Cruise remains a compelling lead and what he lacks in size he makes up for in physicality and truly captures Reacher's force of nature like power, as well as capturing the character's loner identity. Also it is fantastic to see Smulders given a character, in Susan Turner, that does not victimise her but rather empowers and allows her to kick just as much ass as Reacher, in fact one scene addresses the dated gender politics of certain action pictures superbly. However, this sequel does often fall into the similar traps of films like Taken 2, as it lumbers the tour de force leads with an accomplice, that feels there just for the sake of giving the heroes a chink in the armour and at the convenience of the plot. While Danika Yarosh is good in the role, her turn as Samantha, whose sub-plot has strong links to Reacher's past in the film, feels out of place onscreen and almost annoying and disruptive to the flow of Reacher and Turner's investigation. Also, it must be said, the lack of a truly chilling villain akin to the first film's Zec (memorably played by the lovable and eccentric Actor/Director Werner Herzog) is well and truly felt here.
The action zips along as does the plot, which is far less interestingly delivered than the last film, but Edward Zwick's direction doesn't quite seem to grab you as much as Christopher McQuarrie's did last time but in spite of the film's set backs there is still a decent action caper here. The investigative element is not fully realised but watching Reacher be fantastically observant and near unstoppable is unquestionably satisfying, as is Smulders as the no nonsense woman at his side trying to save her career and tarnished name. There is also a bone crunching final fight atop a roof that hits the right notes and offers a fitting climax. Never Go Back is not as fun, well written or surprising as the previous instalment and despite the plot going to well worn places and Samantha's story feeling like paddling, the overall experience is not bad nor great, just enjoyable enough. Never Go Back features great leads and enough to interest you for the duration but while we wouldn't say you'll never go back to it, you won't be returning all that often. That being said if this series does continue, we'd be more than happy to join Cruise (and Smulders for that matter) on another escapade.
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: EDWARD ZWICK / SCREENPLAY: EDWARD ZWICK, RICHARD WENK, MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ / STARRING: TOM CRUISE, COBIE SMULDERS, DANIKA YAROSH, PATRICK HEUSINGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW