Your job is the cornerstone to the action genre. Pyrotechnics in shoot ‘em ups are what laser beams are to sci-fi epics. They’re a tried and true method that became established in the 80’s and 90’s – a time when baggy denim jeans and long, grungy hair were all the rage. Given that Jack Reacher: Never Go Back takes every 90’s action movie staple and formats it into a 2016 screen, your responsibilities represent the ultimate throwback to fans of the genre.
To be clear, your pyrotechnic work here is nothing flashy. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has its fair share of explosions but there’s no sort of stand-out that would justify this letter. There’s no excess of explosive material, nor a scarcity. It’s moderate and expected, just like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
Every scene in the film seems familiar. They follow a set formula of action clichés. Everything from the Times New Roman white font layered over the screen during the opening credits to the long list of military accolades that Jack Reacher possesses makes you think of the grainy action movies of yesteryear. Never Go Back possesses the same tough guy vernacular made popular by actors like Sylvester Stallone, and the one man army moments perfected by Jean Claude Van Damme. It’s full of zany moments that fill you with joy one moment and then make you roll your eyes in frustration the next.
In short, it’s the same type of testosterone-fuelled flick that would grace late night television screens after all scheduled programming had aired; the ones that often had words like ‘maximum’, ‘impact’, and ‘blood’ in their title.
Pretty much anyone who saw action movies that came out of the 90’s can describe their premise: an ex combat specialist (usually military or police force) is out to clear his name after being set up by an evil corporation. There’s usually a hitman involved at some point and plenty of cheesy one-liners. And of course, plenty of explosions.
Not only have I described every Steven Seagal movie ever made, I’ve also laid out the plot for Never Go Back. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but the stark similarities between this film and fisticuff films of the 90’s actually made the experience more enjoyable. Without them, Never Go Back had no personality. I was more interested in finding all of the cliché elements than I was watching the movie. It became a game. A game that I did very well at.
One example which may count as a spoiler, but not really when you realize you’re just watching a remastered version of an old Bruce Willis film comes when Samantha, Reacher’s possible illegitimate daughter is confronted with a gun to her head. Earlier on in the film, Samantha is taught by Cobie Smulders’ character, Turner, how to defend herself if she’s ever faced with this very situation. The training scenario was played off as light-hearted fun but any connoisseur of 90’s action movies knew that technique would pay off later in the film. Sure enough, Samantha remembers her training during this pivotal scene and escapes the clutches of the gunman, complete with a slow-motion focus so everyone watching knows what just went down.
It’s the type of moment that will make you stand up and cheer -- or burst out laughing, which was the case for me.
Never Go Back has all the qualities to become a bonafide contender for any 10-year old out there looking for a top action movie to put on their list, only to cringe in horror at the cheesiness a decade later.
Much like the role of pyrotechnics in action movies, Never Go Back is predictable, stereotypical, and full of hot air. And it’s oh so fun. My only complaint is that nobody was stripped of their gun and badge.