Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

For those of us who have read the book series, Lee Child's main character, Jack Reacher, is a guy you almost wish you could emulate. Retired military, has his checks sent to a post office box and picks them up when he needs them. No family, no attachments. Owns absolutely nothing. Carries around absolutely nothing. No house, no car, not even a storage unit anywhere. Wears clothes for several days, then discards them and buys new ones. Hitchikes places he wants to go. Or maybe takes a bus. In the books, he's a huge guy, six foot five and 260, so you can't miss him, or forget him after you meet him, either. And for the movie version, we cast.....Tom Cruise?

And yet, it seems to work. Jack Reacher, having been in the military police, investigative unit, not only can take care of himself in a fight, he knows a thing or two about getting to the bottom of a complex situation. He seems to have lightning-quick reflexes, so when he finds himself in a brawl, he never loses, even outnumbered. But the movie's Jack Reacher does get hit a few times, and carries around his wounds and scars to enhance his tough-guy image. Sure, Tom Cruise is a former pretty boy who's a little long in the tooth for a classic hero, but that plays into the character development, as well.

We open with a scene where Jack Reacher seems to be co-operating with the military police in order to corral a corrupt civilian sheriff. In the process, he makes contact with a certain Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), his replacement, and their repartee turns into a little phone flirting, so Reacher manages to make his way over to D.C., anticipating meeting this intruiging woman. But when he arrives at her office, he finds that she has been arrested for espionage. He knows those charges must be trumped-up, so he resolves to try to find out what's going on here. He quickly finds himself with a lot of formidable adversaries.

It turns out that somebody in the military is not only selling arms in the black market, but also hiring a paramilitary organization to keep their secrets. The money involved means the corruption goes way up the chain, and also raises the question of even darker secrets (like drug running in military transports).

Yes, of course it's unrealistic to think that one man on the outside of all this can somehow bring enough resources to bear to put pressure on the whole mechanism, even if he does manage to spring Major Turner from the military prison, so they can work together. They're always on the run, and always being traced and pursued by bad hombres. And to make matters worse, Reacher suddenly finds himself in a paternity suit controversy that's he pretty sure is bogus, as well, but he needs to find out. Enter the defiant teenager Samantha (Danika Yarosh), the street-wise kid who nicely triangles the nascent non-relationship of Reacher and Turner.

Mostly, it's a lot of chase scenes and intrigue, an elaborate game of hide-and-go-seek. Some physical violence, but no sex or love, either; we really don't have time for that gushy stuff to develop here. It's a fast-paced thriller with the hero not so much riding off into the sunset as standing by the side of the open road with his thumb out. The post-modern anti-hero.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Have you ever wanted to just hit the open road by yourself and see what adventures await? How long do you think it would take for the isolation to no longer seem charming?

  2. Would you put yourself and your life at risk in order to bring down a crime gang? Even if you weren't in law enforcement?

  3. When have you wished a relationship would spark but it never quite happened?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association