Review for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
"A dumb action movie with delusions of intelligence", is how I described the original Jack Reacher movie when I reviewed it earlier this year. That isn’t the glowing recommendation that will get me clicking away to buy the sequel on Blu-ray, but at the time, I had bought them both, having found the sequel in a bargain bucket, and feeling compelled to watch the original first. And having watched the original, this has lingered on my to-watch pile ever since, as I felt increasingly reluctant to choose it for a night’s viewing before finally biting the bullet. The irony is that in the extras on this disc, they describe the Jack Reacher novels as comfortably standalone, no continuity required.
Jack Reacher’s an enigma, also a war veteran and he’s a former military policeman. But one who lives off the grid and is impossible to find. He does still freelance for the military, and in recent times he’s forged a telephone relationship with his contact in the military police, Major Susan Turner. They’ve actually arranged to meet the next time Reacher is in Washington D.C., but when he actually arrives in the city, he learns that she’s been arrested and charged with espionage. He’s inclined to get involved, but when he goes to see her lawyer, he finds some trouble of his own, a paternity suit, and a previously unknown daughter. This couldn’t happen at a worse time, as Turner has uncovered a criminal conspiracy in the heart of the military, and if the conspirators can’t frame their problems away, they’ll kill them instead.
Paramount present Jack Reacher: Never Go Back with a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and the choice between Dolby Atmos English, and DD 5.1 Surround French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Another recent film gets a nigh on perfect presentation on disc, with a clear and sharp image with excellent detail, and with no sign of visible compression or the like, backed up with some nice, immersive and effectively designed surround audio, making the most of the action and music while keeping the dialogue clear. Once again, the only thing to criticise is the original source, and thankfully the digital colour grading isn’t too egregious in this action film. Rather than go for the usual orange and teal, the image here is a little subdued, tones pulled back with a bit more of a blue push, giving the film a colder feel.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. Inside the case, I found a leaflet for a digital download, but of more interest is a 20-page Jack Reacher short story from author Lee Child. The disc boots to a static menu.
On the disc you’ll find the following extras.
Reacher Returns (11:31)
An Unexpected Family (14:31)
Relentless: On Location in Louisiana (25:46)
Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat (12:42)
No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle (8:13)
Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James (8:33)
There may only be just two of them, but the Jack Reacher movies are the dictionary definition of formulaic. Both films start off as mysteries, and transition into chase movies with loads of adrenaline pumping action. Yet the sequel Never Go Back is markedly better, more entertaining, and more satisfying than the first film. The action is more grounded, the story has more of a hook to it, and the characters, both protagonists and antagonists are developed in a much more rewarding way.
Certainly the big complaint that I had with the first film, the daft, over the top villains is not apparent here. These are bad guys with a purpose and a goal that makes sense. Of course that doesn’t mean that they won’t be chewing scenery when required, being theatrically malicious to make the audience hate them more. But at least nothing they do make you scratch your head at just how stupid they are.
What really makes this film better than the original is that it’s a two hander. In Sarah Turner we have a career military policewoman who has the training and the discipline to compare to Jack Reacher, and they wind up working together to uncover the conspiracy, and deal with the various assailants and assassins they encounter on the way. Also gone is that ridiculous sexual tension between the protagonists in the first film. They spend the opening of the film developing the relationship between Reacher and Turner on the phone, and once they meet, they’re in so much trouble that they don’t have the time to smoulder at each other. Again, this adds a touch more verisimilitude to the film.
There is also that paternity suit subplot that really adds to the story. For one thing, it makes Jack Reacher more human and vulnerable and indeed fallible to think that he has a fifteen year old daughter that he didn’t previously know. It’s an added element in the drama of the story, another variable in the equation, someone else to protect, and the sassy character really adds another dimension, an element of comedy, and indeed warmth. You can see Reacher start to open up a bit, especially when it looks as if she’s a chip off the old block when it comes to her perspective on the world, and her resourcefulness.
I don’t know why I should be surprised by this; after all it is the 21st Century and not the mid-nineteen-eighties, but Never Go Back is a sequel that improves on the first Jack Reacher Film in almost every way. It’s still not a top tier action flick, you get the feeling that Tom Cruise is slumming it between Mission Impossible extravaganzas, but it’s a rewarding piece of entertainment that you can enjoy without reservation for two hours. The Blu-ray does the film justice, and it’s well worth picking up.