I must start this review by stating that a sequel to Jack Reacher was not something which i had any excitement for. The original film was a confused, meandering action movie which set out as a hard boiled, anti-detective movie, but ultimately lost its nerve. The result was a film that, despite a terrific turn by Werner Herzog as freakish villian Zec, seemed to be unsure of the tone it was attempting to portray. It is clear that the people behind Never Go Back have gone for a lighter tone, a decision that may alienate those who are die-hard fans of the novels by Lee Child, but this change of direction actually benefits the film greatly. Never Go Back is a solid action movie, and is far superior to the original film.
The first thing to note is that Never Go Back is much more confident than its predecessor. The movie is free from the burden of attempting to replicate the dark tone of crime thrillers such as Dirty Harry, and is content to deliver some great action sequences without taking itself too seriously. This time Jack Reacher (again played by Tom Cruise) finds himself fighting to clear the name of Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) who has been framed for espionage. From there the plot moves from private security companies to international drug smuggling, and even manages to work in a possible daughter for Jack Reacher in the shape of Samantha (Danika Yarosh). Samantha is a great character who is never allowed to fall into the annoying damsel-in-distress role, instead she is resourceful, intelligent, and even manages to help our heroes out on some occasions.
I stated earlier in this review that the major strength of the first film was Werner Herzog as Zec. The main villian of Never Go Back is simply called The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger), who is certainly not as memorable as Zec (very few villians can top Herzog), but provides a much sterner challenge to Reacher. The Hunter is the classic reverse of the protagonist. He has the same training as Reacher, is equally as formidable in hand-to-hand combat, and can figure out most of Reachers moves. The Hunter and Reacher are soon engaged in a cat and mouse hunt that, of course, culminates in a fistfight. It is not upto the standard of the fight between Riggs and Joshua at the end of Lethal Weapon, but is a good way to end the film.
Never Go Back is exactly the sequel that Jack Reacher needed. It abandons the serious tone of the original in favour of a light-hearted, more humorous mood. I have to admit to disliking the original Jack Reacher, but found myself enjoying the sequel greatly, and would not mind seeing further installments of this franchise.