In Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Reacher must get to the bottom of a huge government conspiracy to clear his name and save his “maybe girlfriend” and “maybe daughter.”

Con – Convoluted

Keep it simple, stupid, is the correct piece of advice in about 99% of all situations.  Jack Reacher: Never Go Back could have greatly benefitted from that axiom. This film is a textbook example of poorly condensing a suspense novel into a movie. It is so convoluted and all over the place, it’s hard to even know where to begin.

The opening scene, which features heavily in the credits, is great. From there, things take a severe downward turn. Reacher slowly hitchhikes (I know what you’re thinking, and nope, it’s not set in 1974) his way across America with the goal of making it to Washington, D.C., to go on a date with a woman he’s talked to on the phone a couple times because . . . she has his old job. What?!? Except, when he finally makes it there, Major Turner (Colbie Smulders) has been arrested on charges of espionage.

With his evening plans suddenly free, he decides to investigate because . . . still not sure. Soon after, and seemingly out of the blue, a girl is introduced who may or may not be Jack Reacher’s daughter. The movie tries to play up the “is she, isn’t she” drama, but it falls so flat. Maybe there’s a cool story here, but it feels forced and the drama feels completely manufactured by the writers. That’s the real issue in this film. It attempts to be thrilling and suspenseful, but it everything comes out half-baked and forced.

Con – Boring

All this leads to a boring movie. Besides the aforementioned opening scene and a few action set pieces, the movie is really boring. There is so much going on, and it’s so implausible even within the logic of the film that it’s a hot mess. I didn’t care about the characters, I really didn’t understand the plot, and I just wanted it to resolve and end. That’s maybe the harshest criticism I can give. It’s so boring, I’d have rather not been at the movies.

Con – Wasted Potential

The sad fact is, this has the bones of a good movie. Despite being in the top five weirdest guys on the planet, Cruise always delivers in these kinds of movies.  The supporting cast is capable as well.  The character of Jack Reacher is really cool, and should have been able to sustain a Mission: Impossible-type run of sequels. The film appears to try too hard for suspense, thrills, and meaningful character development.  It lacks the time and skill to do so, and simple ends up being “franchise killing” bad.

With lots of other options out there, give Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a pass.