FILM REVIEW: JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (12A)**
Based on the book by Lee Child, director Edward Zwick's thriller continues the escapades of the eponymous former major in the Military Police Corps as he exposes greed and injustice.
The first in the franchise, Jack Reacher (2012), was an entertaining genre piece punctuated by smartly orchestrated action sequences, including opening scenes of a sniper taking aim at innocent bystanders that unsettled after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The sequel, set four years later, keeps chilling reality at arm’s length despite a predictable plot that touches on America’s military manoeuvres in the Middle East.
Cruise isn’t showing his years – 54 and counting – as he performs his own death-defying stunts and trades blows in breathlessly choreographed fights.
There’s an undeniable vicarious thrill, and a few unintentional giggles, watching him square off against three or four hulking assailants at the same time, and disable them in a bone-crunching blur of punches.
Jack Reacher (Cruise) is living off the grid, embracing a nomadic lifestyle that allows him to bring down men and women in uniform who abuse their position.
En route to a face-to-face meeting with his successor, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher discovers she has been accused of espionage.
The film simmers pleasantly thanks to the on-screen chemistry between Cruise and Smulders, the latter rolling up her sleeves to inflict bruises in the accomplished action set pieces.
On this rather slick evidence, Reacher will be back.