Jack of dull trades
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