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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Solid, reliable, polished and compact - Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and its charismatic leading man, Tom Cruise, share many positive qualities. Based on the book by Lee Child, director Edward Zwick's thriller continues the escapades of the eponymous former Major in the Military Police Corps as he exposes greed and injustice. The opening salvo in the franchise, Jack Reacher, released in 2012, was an entertaining genre piece punctuated by smartly orchestrated action sequences, including opening scenes of a sniper taking aim at innocent bystanders that unsettled in the wake of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The sequel, set four years later, keeps chilling reality at arm's length despite a largely predictable plot that touches upon America's military manoeuvres in the Middle East. Cruise isn't showing his years - 54 and counting - as he performs his own death-defying stunts, including leaping from a car to a rooftop and trading blows in breathlessly choreographed fights. There's an undeniable vicarious thrill, and a few unintentional giggles, watching his modern-day ronin square off against three or four hulking assailants at the same time, and disable them in a bone-crunching blur of punches and counterpunches. Jack Reacher (Cruise) is living off the grid, embracing a nomadic lifestyle that allows him to move between low-rent motels as he brings down men and women in uniform who abuse their position. En route to a face-to-face meeting with his successor, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher discovers that she has been accused of espionage. "She's been arrested, court-martial is pending," growls Turner's replacement, Colonel Morgan (Holt McCallany), who is suspiciously obstructive. When associates of Turner are slain before they can testify, Reacher realises that he has stumbled upon a wider conspiracy involving overseas shipments of weaponry. Against the odds, Reacher springs Turner from her high-security holding cell so they can expose corruption within the Army ranks, which could implicate retired General Harkness (Robert Knepper). However, a tenacious assassin called The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) is on their trail, flanked by violent henchmen, who will stop at nothing to silence witnesses. In the midst of this taut game of cats and mice, Jack faces claims that a smart-talking teenager called Samantha (Danika Yarosh) is his daughter from a previous relationship. Bullets ricochet, Jack communicates with his bloodied fists and must somehow keep Samantha out of The Hunter's gun sights. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back simmers pleasantly thanks to the on-screen chemistry between Cruise and Smulders, the latter rolling up her sleeves to inflict bruises in the accomplished action set pieces. Yarosh is a delightfully snarky addition, and the father-daughter subplot spices up an otherwise predictable hunt for rotten apples in the Army barrel. On this slick and efficient evidence, Reacher will be back.