Overview: Jack Reacher is back, in spite of his paradoxical sequel title, wrapped in further espionage and a sever lack of Werner Herzog. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 118 minutes.

Never Go Back (Again): In the pantheon of Tom Cruise action films, the first Jack Reacher flies surprisingly under the radar. It’s brisk, efficiently cut action with an abruptly entertaining Jai Courtney performance pre-Suicide Squad. The best part is when Werner Herzog pops up as a villain who forces someone to chew his own fingers off. It’s a riveting villain for Cruise to go up against.

While not quite “blown off the hinges” visceral entertainment the Mission: Impossible series has provided, Jack Reacher could have proven to be another franchise for arguably the world’s biggest movie star. Sadly, this is not to be the case as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back flounders in menial action linguistics. A standalone filler episode of a series. Nothing about the film is offensive or incompetent, but rather lacks the panache of Christopher McQuarrie’s entry.

You Came Back Anyways So Let’s Talk About It: Edward Zwick sits in the director’s chair this time. Zwick handles everything well enough to warrant a cable television viewing as he’s certainly not lazy. However, there’s nothing worth noting about the direction either. The construction of the action lacks a confidence, guiding the characters through uninteresting set pieces. It’s functional but doesn’t inspire the bursts of enthusiasm found in other recent Cruise action films.

After fighting Werner Herzog, the bar is raised to astounding heights. Never Go Back is not up to the challenge. No big names are required to make a great villain – although Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly brought his A-Game to Mission: Impossible III – but an action film is usually only as great as the hero’s adversary. None are worth noting in this review.

However, the highlight of the film is Cobie Smulders from HIMYM and MCU fame. She’s truly Cruise’s equal in the film, capable of holding her own and not being a damsel in distress. If the trade-off to having weak villains is giving a strong actress a compelling role in a major studio action film, something has gone right for the film. In a perfect world, there would be a worthy antagonist for the protagonists to challenge. The ferocity of a Werner Herzog presence would have upped the ante.

The film stores another surprise up its sleeve with the inclusion of a young girl who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter, unifying a nuclear family along for the action escapades. There’s minimal moments of tenderness as the film slows down to pay attention to the methodology of Reacher. He’s a lone wanderer traversing the world and going on adventures, only to find solace in a family dynamic and forced to fight to keep them around. It’s both the beating heart of the film and it’s most underutilized thread alongside the villains (who remain hardly conceptual throughout). There are individual moments exploring the family dynamic but they don’t expand into a greater whole. Like the rest of the film, it’s satisfactory for the action fan in all of us, if disappointingly perfunctory.

Overall: Perfunctory and Tom Cruise should never have to be used in the same sentence, but here we are.

Grade: C-

Featured Image: Paramount Pictures