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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Siraj Syed on how Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back keeps running helter-skelter

Siraj Syed on how Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back keeps running helter-skelter

Produced by Tom Cruise himself, this second edition of the ex Military Police (MP) Major Jack Reacher (Cruise)’s exploits has three other actors in key roles: Cobie Smulders plays Virginia Military Police Susan Turner (the new head of Reacher’s former unit), Danika Yarosh co-stars as the 15 year-old, who (as the movie’s synopsis gets you to guess) may or may not be Reacher’s daughter. And there is Patrick Heusinger, as The Hunter, Reacher’s deadly foe, in relentless pursuit. Cruise’s obsession with action super-hero roles is always under the scanner, and it is just as well that he allows other actors the space they need, to break the star mould monotony. It just about works.

Reacher busts a human-trafficking racket, smuggling Mexicans into the USA that is headed by a sheriff. The sheriff arrests Reacher for assaulting his goons, but Turner gets him released and takes the sheriff into custody. Turner is on the tip of a shocking revelation about gun and drug-running in Afghanistan by her own men, and is framed for espionage by the top brass. Reacher meets her lawyer and gets some leads. However, the lawyer is soon found dead, and Reacher is the accused. Then there is a girl, whose mother is claiming that Reacher is the father of her child, and has filed a paternity suit. Reacher gets Turner out of military custody, and grabs the girl, lest they target her, believing her to be Reacher’s daughter. A team of crack-shots sets after them in hot pursuit, believing that the lawyer had spilled the bean before he was murdered.

Lee Child is Jim Grant in real-life, a 62 year-old British thriller writer, known for the Jack Reacher novel series. The books follow the adventures of a former American military policeman, Jack Reacher, who wanders the United States. His first novel, Killing Floor, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Never Go Back (reminds you of Bond’s ‘Never Say Never Again’?) is his 18th book, and why the producers made such a time machine jump they know best. Screenplay is the work of by Richard Wenk (The Magnificent Seven, Countdown, The Equalizer, The Expendables 2, The Mechanic), Marshall Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs) and director Edward Zwick himself (Love & Other Drugs, Defiance, The Last Samurai ).

In terms of characterisation, Reacher bordering on the misogynist, while at least three women holding their own, is a good study in contrasts. Action is well-paced, perhaps just a little too far spaced out, the flats dominating the surges. In the end, it becomes all predictable, and the corruption in high places, plus a villain’s illogical ego-trip, that is taken too far, are elements that take away from the merits. The paternity suit plot point is a novel idea, not totally convincing, though. An interesting development is the scene in the new school, when Reacher realises that they will be traced through the girl’s mobile phone, and whisks her away. Here again, his foresight is marred by his casual throwing away of the phone from the car’s window. What changes, if any, have been made while adapting the book into a screenplay will be known to only those who have been exposed to both formats, not me, so no comments on that count.

In shaping Reacher 2, Edward Zwick (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice, The Last Samurai) falls a little short when compared to the work of his predecessor on the franchise and frequent collaborator,  Christopher McQuarrie, who helmed the first Jack reachout. (McQuarrie and Edward Zwick run the film and television production unit, The Bedford Falls Company. Their last project was the 2010 film Love & Other Drugs). McQuarrie wrote and directed Jack Reacher, which had German film-maker Werner Herzog as the terrifying villain. Cleverly, the girl’s mother is never shown, except in a couple of passing shots. There is an overdose of running in the film, chase after chase being an all feet affair. Surprisingly, car chases in this movie are fewer than in any film of comparable genre. The marathons lose their novelty after a while, and even as the lead players run towards buses and buildings, and in and out of airports and hotels, the film meanders, and the narrative runs helter-skelter.

Tom Cruise, 54 (Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol , Edge of Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible), looks dispassionate, mouths a couple of witty one-liners and flaunts a torso that is appreciable for a 54 year-old. He has to work hard, as always, to pull of the muscles, hammer fist-fights and blazing guns incarnation. It is not his forté, and if he has managed to occupy that space for so many years, that is some credit. Cobie Smulders (The Avengers, Winter Soldier, Ultron), 34, is Canadian, and smoulders, with minimal skin-show and maximum commitment. Danika Yarosh as the irreverent schoolgirl is a delight. Watch out for her. Patrick Heusinger (TV) plays The Hunter with gusto, not helped one bit by the script.

Madalyn Horcher as Sgt. Leach exudes requisite genial humour. As the arch-villain, Robert Knepper (Hunger Games, Transporter) has a small role, while Aldis Hodge (A Good Day to Die Hard, Die Heard with a Vengeance) as the black MP in whom Turner places a leap of faith is impressive.

Rating: ** ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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