Before we get into the matter of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, we must first address the issue of the man actually playing Jack Reacher. Resolved: Tom Cruise has absolutely nothing in common physically with author Lee Child's crime-solving ex-military drifter. Cruise is famously diminutive; Reacher is famously tall and physically imposing; Reacher, in the books, is fair-haired and rough-featured. Sill, Cruise is solid in the role, and I wouldn't mind seeing him give it another shot.
But the elegant austerity of the first Reacher film is gone. This time, the director is Ed Zwick, a master of canned sentiment and prefab style -- a guy who hasn't met an emotion he hasn't tried to milk, a tear he hasn't tried to jerk, a set piece he hasn't tried to overdo. I could, at first, understand why Zwick was chosen, as this story asks for a bit more emotional investment from the normally stoic Reacher. This time, the hero heads back to Virginia to finally meet Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), the younger (and, of course, beautiful) Army major who took over Reacher's old desk. He finds that she's been arrested for espionage, and -- Reacher, being Reacher -- sets out to save her, prove her innocence and uncover the guilty parties. Also complicating matters is a teenager named Samantha Dutton (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be the daughter Reacher never knew he had. These three are thrust together by necessity, and must contend with a series of military contractor goons coming after them, all led by the Hunter (Patrick Heusinger), a sneering hitman who is Terminator-like in his efficiency. There's no mystery, and the action is thoroughly disposable.