Tom Cruise pretty well gets the hell beaten out of him in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” His character, an ex-military investigator turned freelance do-gooder, has all the hand-to-hand skills we’ve seen before in the movies. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get hit, or feel pain when he does.
Cruise, arguably the biggest movie star in the world for 30 years, seems to be downshifting into more ordinarily human characters as he gets older. Unlike his Ethan Hunt from the “Mission: Impossible” series, Jack Reacher doesn’t have an international spy infrastructure or tons of space-age gadgets at his disposal. He does most everything he needs to with his fists, or a few well-placed threats.
In this second go-round, Reacher finds that his main contact at military headquarters in D.C. (Cobie Smulders) is being investigated for espionage. Soon enough he’s the target of the same suspicions, and he’s busted her out of jail so the two of them can conduct their own detective work while on the lam from the feds.
Complicating things is Samantha (Danika Yarosh), a teen who’s being threatened as leverage against Reacher, who supposedly is her long-lost father. We’re not quite sure if it’s true, but it doesn’t really matter because Reacher is not the sort to let an innocent kid get squeezed for him.
The action scenes are exciting yet believable, and the simple wind-up plot -- talk, chase, fight; talk, chase, fight -- does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Some films have pretensions of being more than they are, but the cool thing about “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is that it never forgets that it’s meant to be pure popcorn fun.
Bonus features are middling, though you’ll have to spring for the Blu-ray upgrade to get them, as the DVD has none. The Blu-ray comes with six making-of mini-documentaries: “Reacher Returns,” “An Unexpected Family,” “Relentless: On Location in Louisiana,” “Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat,” “No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle” and “Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James.”