First Hit: Better than the first but still not quite as strong as other loner films, such as the Bourne series.
The first film was entertaining mostly because Tom Cruise (as Jack Reacher) is good at what he does, be intense, entertaining, and be Tom Cruise. One never loses the thought that it is Tom Cruise on the screen. In other words, it is Cruise with a character's name, in this case Jack Reacher. Not that this is bad, however there is never any doubt about who is starring in the film.
In Cruise films there always seems to be a scene where he's in a shower and the shot is a profile of the water hitting his head and then flowing down his face. It is generally to show is anguish and his human side before he gets revitalized to go out and do become the intense focused character he’s playing. This film is no different.
In this version of Reacher, the opening scene has Cruise assisting the government in rounding up a sheriff who is trafficking illegal aliens. This sets up Reacher as someone who gets the job done, even if it sets him up for additional issues. This opening also tells us that Reacher is smart, knows what is going to happen, and has a singular focus. The writer and director tell us all we need to know by telling the Sheriff what is going to happen in the next 90 seconds. The sheriff laughs, then realizes that Reacher has the last laugh.
The biggest flaw I saw at the beginning of the film was how did he have such a close working relationship with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), the person who took his job in the Army? This was never well established and this little loose end bothered me throughout the film. The film made a big deal about them meeting for the first time, and that they had a phone relationship, but somehow it didn’t work for me. However, their on-screen chemistry worked and they were well match with intensity.
The plot is about Reacher and Smulders finding out who is using the US Government Military complex to perpetrate fraud why. It has to do with arms dealers, government contractors, and drugs. To move the plot, in an interesting and heartfelt way, Reacher is accused of not providing child support to Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who happens to attach herself to him and Smulders as they find themselves in the thick of a battle between the government’s MPs and the contractors.
Cruise is Cruise. He gives you all he has, he does it well but in the end it is never about the character but it is Tom Cruise. Smulders is very strong in her character and in her physicality. Yarosh is very good and I like what she brought to the film. Aldis Hodge was OK as a MP captain charged with bringing Reacher to justice. My favorite character in this film was Madalyn Horcher as Sargent Leach who helps Reacher with information as the story unfolds. Lee Child and Richard Wenk wrote the screenplay and it is works better than the first Reacher film, but all told it isn’t very strong. Edward Zwick did well to present this story and the characters in an interesting way, but it wasn’t an overall strong film.
Overall: When you compare a film like this with a Jason Bourne film, the storyline, why it is shot, and the acting are far superior.