'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back', Please!

Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

There isn’t a single moment of genuine peril in this listless action-thriller.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Paramount
Year: 2016
US Date: 2016-10-21
UK Date: 2016-10-20

The ironically titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back might be the most unnecessary sequel of 2016. That’s really saying something in a year that includes Blair Witch.

Director Edward Zwick and blockbuster starved Tom Cruise (in full-on Cyborg mode for this lifeless outing) have no intention of pushing action-thriller boundaries. Instead, they roll out tired storylines about lost daughters and clumsy fistfights that couldn’t pass muster on an MMA undercard. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is like cinematic Xanax, defusing tension at every possible turn in favor of predictable twists and listless action.

First, let’s get this out of the way: Tom Cruise does not make a believable bad-ass. Regardless of your feelings about the cinematic adaptation of Lee Child’s prolific literary franchise, Cruise is undeniably ill-suited for the lead role and it undermines every minute of Never Go Back.

Cruel as this may sound, it’s actually a compliment. Despite all the hate (some justified, some irrational), Tom Cruise is a talented actor, particularly in the realms of comedy and action. He can go over the top in Tropic Thunder or understated in Edge of Tomorrow and be equally effective. Nobody runs, jumps, and clings to airplanes better than Tom Cruise.

He falters, however, when he tries to play ‘Stoic Hero’. Stoic Cruise is an impenetrable void of charisma on the screen; bereft of the roguish charm, physical vitality, and surprising vulnerability that punctuate his finest turns. Simply put, Cruise requires both words and actions to create a compelling screen presence.

Director Edward Zwick (Pawn Sacrifice, Blood Diamond) and his screenwriters further inflame the situation by creating one of the dullest, least likeable action heroes in recent memory. Compared to the bloodier and more imaginative ‘one man killing machine’ movies such as John Wick and The Accountant, Jack Reacher feels like a vanilla, PG-13 dinosaur as he lumbers from one lackluster action sequence to the next. The filmmakers are clearly striving for more realism and less hyper-stylized violence with Never Go Back, but this is little more than a clunky potboiler with a sprinkling of sentimentality.

Reacher, an “Ex Major” with the United States Army, is hitchhiking his way to nowhere in particular when he forms a long-distance relationship with the ultra-foxy, ultra-ripped, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). They make tentative plans for a dinner date, which will, presumably, involve a spirited cardio workout and the finest bottled water that money can buy.

When Jack travels to Washington D.C. in the hopes of getting lucky, he finds that Major Turner has been stripped of her rank and thrown into the pokey for espionage. It seems that two of the soldiers under her command were murdered while investigating some missing hi-tech weapons in Afghanistan. Turner gets framed, Reacher gets mad, and a bunch of arms get broken.

What follows is two hours of Turner and Reacher tracking clues to solve a mystery that nobody cares about or understands. All paths lead back to the shadowy security firm called Para Source, which enlists a contract killer known only as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) to irritate Reacher with a series of futile assassination attempts. Oh, and Reacher might have a mischievous teenage daughter named Sam (Danika Yarosh) who draws in a sketch book and steals things.

Will she steal Jack Reacher’s heart? Does Jack Reacher even have a heart?

Described as “feral” by the people who actually like him, Reacher seems to feel nothing… for anyone. Oddly, he bears a striking resemblance to another feral nomad; Mad Max. George Miller understands that Max is a blank slate who rediscovers the remnants of his humanity by grudgingly helping others. Max, as evidenced by the triumphant Fury Road, is emotionally crippled; a secondary character in his own story.

Unlike Miller, however, Zwick makes his disaffected “hero” the emotional core of his film. The result, unsurprisingly, is a film bereft of soul or humanity. Jack Reacher ticks off its plot points like a methodical robot, with Reacher neither growing nor learning anything in the process. The only emotion you feel is pity for the plucky Sam, who might as well be trying to win the love of a Cyborg.

The action sequences are equally uninspired. Cruise and Smulders run their little hearts out, pounding the pavement in both D.C. and New Orleans. Unfortunately, nearly every sequence ends the same depressing way; a barrage of awkward haymakers that more closely resembles a drunken brawl than a choreographed fight.

Worse still, Zwick seems intent upon diffusing the tension whenever possible. When a couple of thugs follow Reacher onto an airplane, for instance, Zwick bypasses the inherent tension of confinement with a few swift punches and a pithy one-liner. Another scene finds Reacher seemingly cornered in an alleyway, only to find a conveniently placed door to facilitate his escape. Honestly, there isn’t a single moment of genuine peril in this entire film.

It’s hard to imagine Jack Reacher: Never Go Back finding much of an audience. We don’t care about the hero, the story is boring, and there are no memorable action scenes to capture the imagination. Cobie Smulders makes a persuasive argument for action hero status, but she has zero chemistry with the brooding Cruise. There’s not much fun to be had, and even less excitement. Mercifully, if feels like Jack Reacher has reached the end of the line.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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