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Arts in Review

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back doesn’t reach too high.

The second movie in the budding Jack Reacher film franchise (because you just know it’s going to turn into a franchise), is an exercise in testing the patience of its audience. What do we look for in action movies? Is it thrilling close calls with bad guys? Fist fights in alleys? People falling off buildings while fist fighting bad guys in alleys?

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The second movie in the budding Jack Reacher film franchise (because you just know it’s going to turn into a franchise), is an exercise in testing the patience of its audience.

What do we look for in action movies? Is it thrilling close calls with bad guys? Fist fights in alleys? People falling off buildings while fist fighting bad guys in alleys?

If an engaging plot which strives to make you question the nature of violence or corruption of authority or the intricacies of military police protocol is what you’ve bought tickets to the latest Jack Reacher film looking to find, I’ve got some bad news for you — keep reaching.

Jack Reacher is (his description would have you believe) a sleuth. A former military-policeman turned private investigator, Reacher must go incognito after being framed for murder, simultaneously avoiding sundry agencies after him and chasing down the bad guys.

You’d think the best way to do this would be to keep quiet and attempt to draw the least amount of attention to yourself possible. (Reacher seems to think this too, or, at least he says so numerous times throughout the film.) His actions, however, are entirely the opposite.

The main problem with this movie is not just that it’s formulaic (and it’s painfully formulaic — first Reacher is double-crossed, then he injures and kills his way through what is essentially a private army, and then also the real army, before realizing that what really matters is family), it’s that it’s so self-serving that the plot is ludicrously bare.

So I asked myself, what exactly is the purpose of a movie like this one? Am I supposed to get anything out of it? Am I supposed to question our nature as humans or the nature of our relationships to one another? What about familial relationships?

I’m apparently not supposed to do any of that. All I’m really supposed to do is watch Tom Cruise dryly drone his lines between pummeling government employees or mercenaries.

And, I suppose, if we accept this to be the operative definition of action movies nowadays (“Hey, wanna go watch a guy seriously injure a bunch of other guys?”), then Jack Reacher hits the nail on the head — and then shoots it for good measure.

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