Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is in a diner on a military base after beating up and incapacitating four men at once. He is enjoying a coffee when the cops arrive and start to question him, going through his wallet and slapping the handcuffs on him, whereupon he informs the two officers that within the next ninety seconds the payphone will ring, and they will not only take off the cuffs but they will be cuffed themselves. Just as Reacher said, this is what happens, he's that kind of confident and capable guy, so when he gets in contact with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) at the Army headquarters he used to serve in, his interest is piqued when she tells him she needs to speak to him - and when he shows up there, she has been arrested.
Cruise took the unusual (for him) move of making a sequel to the first Jack Reacher movie he made, not really being a sequels kind of guy outwith the Mission: Impossible franchise which he evidently regarded as his baby to do with as he pleased. Not so with this character, for there were legions of dads who felt very close to Lee Childs' novels and had not been entirely convinced by the star's casting in the role, the most common complaint being that the decidedly diminutive Cruise was no match for the six foot five Reacher on the page. The writer himself told them it did not matter, the films were different from the books anyway, but the release of this second instalment only made the complaints louder.
That in spite of the first entry being really rather dull, and this effort being a little better in its feature length eighties TV action series episode kind of way. Not that it was any classic, but for at least the first half it held the interest until it became plain precisely what director Edward Zwick was doing with the story. The plot had it that Turner had been investigating the mysterious deaths of two of her soldiers in Afghanistan, and as a result of a cover-up by some shady authority figures she had been locked away in the slammer, so Reacher, who is also arrested as an accomplice when one of her allies is murdered, has to break himself out of custody as well as this new friend he admits he has never met face to face before.
It's no surprise that he achieves that task, and that was an issue, the complete lack of anything remotely surprising as everything played in a blanded out version of a very familiar set of thriller clichés, with even the action sequences fairly forgettable. Cruise was patently wishing to be taken very seriously here, which translated to a set of listlessly ordinary setpieces that did not have the desired effect of convincing the audience this was not simply the Reacher we had, but the Reacher we needed, though what was more interesting was Smulders sharing some of the combat duties that ordinarily would have been the sole preserve of wee Tom - she had even perfected her own version of the famed Cruise sprint, so he was apparently giving her the necessary pointers on the set to be more credible.
All very well until the introduction of the third main character, Reacher's supposed (he's not sure) daughter Samantha (Danika Yanosh) who joined the pantheon of bratty kids bolstering the action hero's shtick that had been a mistake from the days of Short Round, even before. This was to create a family unit for Reacher to play the dad with, as Smulders was the sensible "mommy means business" character to tolerate and attempt to guide the wayward fifteen-year-old, only daddy meant business too, so there was barely a joke here at all to lighten the mood or justify Never Go Back as fun for all the family, including the protagonist's. This conservatism in its narrative merely indicated nobody wanted to mess with any formula, so what you had played it very safe from minute one. The bad guys were unforgivably unexciting too, including the nameless assassin (Patrick Heusinger) who dogs Reacher's every move, leaving a thriller that sat there, purely functional and about as satisfying as a snack before you had yourself a proper meal. Music by Henry Jackman.