Jack of dull trades

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK ★ Di­rected by Ed­ward Zwick. Star­ring Tom Cruise, Co­bie Smul­ders, Aldis Hodge, Pa­trick Heusinger, Danika Yarosh, Holt McCal­lany. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 118 min Wedge match­sticks in your eye sock­ets. Stock up on the strong­est cof­fee. Cin­ema’s most bor­ing home­less per­son has just got off the bus for a sec­ond time.

It wouldn’t be cor­rect to say this ver­sion of Jack Reacher has no dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. Played by Tom Cruise, with enough im­mo­bil­ity to sug­gest a nar­colep­tic Si­mon Cow­ell, the wan­der­ing avenger is – if we trust Lee Child’s books – the short­est man ever to mea­sure 6ft 5in. He could hardly seem less like the orig­i­nal Reacher if he were a Bel­gian woman.

Di­rected by poor old Ed Zwick – the man be­hind Glory – with an ap­par­ently wil­ful anonymity, the new film has Reacher, for­mer mil­i­tary po­lice­man, stum­bling into an own-brand con­spir­acy plucked from the shelves of Hol­ly­wood’s least ad­ven­tur­ous plot shop.

He ar­rives in DC for a so­cial call with Ma­jor Su­san Turner (Co­bie Smul­ders) to dis­cover that his hith­erto re­li­able col­league has been ar­rested for es­pi­onage. Else­where, Sa­man­tha Day­ton (Danika Yarosh), the daugh­ter of a lo­cal pros­ti­tute, is claim­ing to be Reacher’s daugh­ter.

Af­ter some punch-ups and more shoot­ings, Reacher ends up flee­ing with the two women. Turner proves to be nearly Reacher’s equal. Sa­man­tha is just bid­ing time be­fore, in the fi­nal reel, vil­lains tie her to the train tracks or dan­gle her over a cliff.

It is scarcely pos­si­ble to spoil the core mys­tery: some te­dious baloney about evil of­fi­cers sell­ing drugs to the en­emy while plac­ing blame on in­no­cent Smul­der­ses. The Rock­ford

Files came up with 22 bet­ter plots each sea­son.

The ac­tion se­quences are so achingly con­ven­tional that they ac­tu­ally al­low a scene in which Reacher and en­emy, while crouch­ing be­hind cover, shout taunts at one an­other across the in­ter­ven­ing space.

Didn’t that go out with Gene Autry?

What re­ally de­flates the bal­loon, how­ever, is the sheer te­dious­ness of the cen­tral char­ac­ter. Ut­terly with­out hu­mour – his di­a­logue is flat­ter than the sen­tences you hear af­ter pulling Ac­tion Man’s string – this Jack Reacher could se­date a shed­load of am­phet­a­mine users with just one syl­la­ble.

Cruise does al­low him one ec­cen­tric­ity. Con­stantly swiv­el­ling his head in search of dan­ger, Reacher comes across like a kestrel stuck at a level cross­ing. Only he’s not so in­ter­est­ing as that makes him sound.

Wan­der­ing avengers: Co­bie Smul­ders and Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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