The tone of the movie is a little uneven. It starts with that snarky scene where Reacher tells the sheriff he’ll be arrested after the phone rings; the scene serves to setup his association with US Army Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). After coming to DC to hook up with her, he finds out she’s been arrested and charged with espionage, etc, and that she didn’t want him involved in any way. So naturally…
Adding to this is the surprise of a paternity suit filed against the Army naming Reacher- which is revealed during his interview with the Army Prosecutor. Checking up on the streetwise tween who might be his daughter puts her square in the sights of his enemies, so he’s forced to bring her along for her protection.
I understand the issues fans of the series have with casting someone of Cruise’s stature as Jack Reacher- who’s described like a NFL defensive end in the books- but other than maybe Dwayne Johnson or Arnold in his prime, who could portray him? Cruise has done enough of this type of work to pull off Reacher’s brand of intensity and is fit enough to handle the action- and yeah, he does a lot of running in this one!- so I can’t really complain.
Cruise & Smulders had good chemistry- the characters meshed well from attraction to argumentative. I liked that their characters clashed over being so similar that it drove a temporary wedge between them. Danika Yarosh as Samantha, his potential daughter, was ok. That said, the other performances felt stiff- especially Aldis Hodge as Espin- and the script almost rote. The movie just felt a little off the whole time.
After only two films I’ve noticed a pattern to the way things unfold. The style and pacing are similar in both- the stories unfold via exposition interwoven with flashbacks. These are key; if you’re paying attention to the flashbacks you’re given everything you need to sort things out. Case in Point- the mystery behind the arms dealings is laid out in one of the flashback sequences. And it really shouldn’t be a surprise. Not that these cases are much of a surprise- you’re told early on Who and What, we’re just along for the ride in finding out Why and How.
Which brings me to one major flaw. Reacher, etc, are such top level operators they can glean volumes of information from the slightest inference yet completely miss what’s right in front of them all along. Maybe it’s just me, but when an arms dealer/smuggler is making ten times more money than they should and willing to murder soldiers and Army investigators to cover it up, there’s only one explanation. And thanks to those exposition flashbacks, it’s right there. So what took Reacher & co. so long to figure it out?
Another one is the dangling loose end at the end of both movies. Every aspect of the case gets wrapped up neatly except for one glaring point that for some reason gets ignored/glossed over. In the first movie it was how the crooked cop ended up involved with the conspiracy: he stated he’d had no choice in the matter, but we never find out why. In this one, it’s the paternity case against Reacher- if no one even knows who he is, how’d he end up getting named as the father to begin with?
Overall, it’s entertaining even if you’ll find yourself ahead of the characters. Good for a matinee or a rental.