Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has the narrative execution of a late ‘90s chase thriller, but with the contemporary action dressing of Bourne. Reacher’s sequel uses snazzy cinematography and a military intrigue plot, both lost in the midst of pseudo-family drama which alienates a chunk of the story.
Utterly wasting fantastic location choices (New Orleans especially, using non-descript abandoned warehouses as opposed to the city’s familiar beauty), Tom Cruise silently ventures between scenes as the title character, speaking as needed while pursuing a rapidly formed romance. Pace is in Never Go Back’s favor, hitting necessary marks to rev up the compact corruption tale, sprinkled with some interpersonal drama.
Reacher pairs with Cobie Smulders, a viable kick/punch/shoot partner at arms, instituting a touch of critical blowback in a series of heated monologues regarding military sexism. It’s sharp commentary, if never acted upon. Reacher still stands alone against a cold villain (Patrick Heusinger) by the overly foreshadowed climax, a rather arbitrary finish considering Never Go Back’s already completed story arc.
Never Go Back peppers itself with occasional chases and one heavy shoot-out. A few rounds of fisticuffs too (including a clever kitchen melee), although they rapidly draw to a close. Instead, the script’s deal is to humanize Reacher, still arrogant, still infinitely confident, if presenting the engaging “what if?” of this trained rebel in a domestic lifestyle. This involves Reacher’s potential daughter Samantha (Danika Yarosh), pulled into the story for emotional grounding before turning toward a derivative routine of protection and kidnapping. The onus turns from uncovering conspiracy to taming the government-trained killer, a character arc in the making, if one without any genuine conclusion. Never Go Back ends where it begins, benign and flatlined even with those few bursts of Hollywood action.
At worst, Never Go Back isn’t willing to go anywhere unfamiliar. While issuing potshots at government overspending on hardware, it’s equally thrashing a privatized marketplace for supplying American enemies. Fine for two hours of forgettable minor escapism, meager in (or even devoid of) substance. Not in the summer blockbuster way either – even then, most of Marvel’s output leaves something with bite. Reacher’s second go-round doesn’t place the character in the cinematic pantheon with a Bond, Bourne, or Hunt; he just is, sharp, clean, and utterly needless.
While the decision to shoot on film has downsides, the overall visual performance lends itself to a stellar Blu-ray. Precision facial detail highlights the disc throughout, with frequently flawless close-ups sporting stunning fidelity. Sharp, well rendered exteriors add to the otherwise forgotten locations.
Grain is notable, resolved purely by Paramount’s AVC encode. The film structure jumps between clean and thick, although rarely noisy. A handful of shots (maybe three) weirdly succumb to some odd digitization, leaving heavy chroma noise in the background and an out-of-character plastic look to skin. They’re brief faults, but odd ones.
Great shadow work holds the nighttime cinematography together, especially necessary for the finale (excusing some rather dry shadows on a plane). Black levels deepen enough to hide the worst of some obvious green screen shots. Luckily, crush is avoided.
While adhering to a familiar theme of orange/blue, primaries still strike as needed. Accurate flesh tones, slightly warmed, lend Never Go Back a natural look even under the gun of digital grading. Heavy reds and greens impact as needed, giving this thriller a bit of color unusual for the genre.
Not as aggressive as likely anticipated, the TrueHD/Atmos effort succeeds when needed. A low-end kick adds power to the gunshots, and especially some plane engines. The take-off is sensationally boomy.
Pleasing ambiance fills street-side locales, and when called upon, gunshots flare throughout the soundfield. Both major shoot outs track bullets and debris with superb accuracy, especially the kitchen sequence with shattering plates. Ambiance during the late parade swells to fill the soundfield, a rare bit of non-action positional use.
While still leaning toward promotional focus, bonuses sport fine production values and Tom Cruise features extensively, unusual for big name stars. Reacher Returns explores the character and the changes seen in Never Go Back. Family dynamics feature in An Unexpected Family, with Relentless following to detail the locations. Take our Revenge First focuses on the action, with No Quarter Given honing in on choreography.
Reacher in Focus wins for most interesting, detailing the process of on-set still photography and the importance for promotional value. All together, these run 80-minutes or so, a nice package of bonuses.
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