Jack Reacher books are a guilty pleasure. They’re not good books; they’re perfectly fine for what they are. Call them potboilers or beach reads, these mysteries all showcase how awesome the main character is.
Never Go Back is no different. A quick read, the book shows off Reacher’s skillset as an ex-Army MP in many different ways. Reacher, who in the book is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds of muscle, gets to knock some heads and generally carry the day.
However, this particular Reacher book is lighter on action than some of his others. There’s a daring prison break, a showdown with backwoods thugs and some solid scenes on a plane, but for the most part, this is a talky action book.
Reacher and new partner slash love interest Major Turner talk a lot. They talk about motive. They talk in the car. They talk on the aforementioned plane. They talk to other people about the case. We even get snippets of the bad guys talking to each other.
That’s what makes it so fascinating as the sequel choice for the movie franchise starring Jack Reacher. Tom Cruise plays the titular hero, even though he’s nowhere near Reacher’s described size.
Still, he carries the world weariness well, along with the sense that Reacher himself is virtuous to a fault. That’s there in both the book and the movie, but there’s not a lot left between the two.
While most of the time, these are meant to be book reviews, I’m not sure I can do much good telling you about the book itself. It was fine. Read it if you like these books. But figuring out why they chose this book for the movie is much more interesting.
Like I said, much of the action in the movie is done through discussions. Long talks about bank accounts, motives and forged documents carry the book’s pages. That’s not easily done in a movie, especially not an action franchise.
The movie also chose to take one of the book’s final third elements (a mysterious daughter for Reacher) and make her a cute moppet who bonds with her absent maybe-father. From Cruise’s perspective, you can see why that part of the story is great. It gives him a sweet counterpart to sand down his gruff edges while still having room for a love interest.
Oh, and that’s the other thing the movie does. It G-rates the love story between Reacher and Major Turner. In the book, the relationship is James Bond-esque. Reacher meets Turner, breaks her out of prison, bingo bango they’re in bed together. At the end (spoilers), they go their separate ways amicably.
It’s how Reacher’s relationships always go. You can’t have a drifter stay tied down to a longterm relationship, can you?
The movie plays down that romance quite a bit. It’s a credit to Cobie Smulders that her part is as vital to the movie as it is. She’s good in the action scenes, as she’s proven time and again in her Marvel role. However, the suddenness of the relationship with Reacher is played as crazy and their attachment is more of a mutual respect than a torrid love affair.
Having said adorable moppet around, unlike the book, also quashes any pantless time the two could have.
What I also found fascinating is the movie’s decision to set the third act in New Orleans instead of Los Angeles. The movie made a mess of the ending, with bad guys running around for no particular reason. That’s probably for the best, since Never Go Back’s villains had one of the weaker endings to the series. There wasn’t a big shootout; things just ended.
Why change the location, you ask? Well, Louisiana has tried hard to get all sorts of motion picture money into the state. They give plenty of rebates and tax credits for productions who shoot there. I’m sure it was much cheaper to make the movie in New Orleans than if they had tried to shoot in Washington D.C. and L.A.
Overall, though, the movie was forgettable. The book, at least, had some good scenes and was a pretty solid mystery until the end. There weren’t any great twists, but the identity and motive of the bad guys was held late enough to be interesting.
Wikipedia claims Never Go Back the movie was a successful film. I’ll be interested to see if Cruise decides to make another in this series. If he does, I bet he picks one with some better actions scenes and maybe still a cute kid for good measure.