REVIEW: Is ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ family-friendly? (And is there too much violence for kids?)

REVIEW: Is 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' family-friendly? (And is there too much violence for kids?)If you ever decide to venture into a dark alley, late at night with bad guys all around, then you might want to take Jack Reacher with you.

Reacher is the hero in the popular book series by Lee Child and the film series starring Tom Cruise, and it seems there’s nothing he can’t escape. Sure, he might kill a few people and break a few necks along the way, but the odds are that he’s walking out alive.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (PG-13) hits theaters this weekend, bringing us the second installment in the movie series that follows a former major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps who travels the country and constantly finds himself in the middle of trouble. But somehow, he always ends up on the right side of things.

He’s part James Bond, part Jason Bourne and part Ethan Hunt – and 100 percent testosterone.

In the newest movie, Reacher (Cruise) is framed for murder and his friend Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is wrongly accused of espionage, but both escape custody (thanks to Reacher) and begin trying to find the people who truly were responsible for the crimes.

It won’t be easy, though. They’re not only being chased by military police but also by the bad guys – the bad guys who actually did commit the crimes. And those bad guys not only want Reacher and Turner dead, but they’re also after a girl, 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who is believed to be a daughter that Reacher never knew.

There are 20 books in the Jack Reacher series, so there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing this character for many years to come on the big screen.

But is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back family-friendly? Let’s take a look.

The Good

Jack Reacher seems to know something is missing in his life, and when a seemingly long-lost daughter crosses his path, his outlook on life changes. He carries her picture in his wallet and will do anything to save her life, even endangering his own life. He tells Turner that he “should have been there 15 years ago” in Samantha’s life.

Reacher’s goal is to halt injustice and evil, even if police are involved. At the beginning of the film he is key to the arrest of two law enforcement officers who were kidnapping and selling illegal immigrants.

Jack Reacher is not the womanizer that James Bond is (at least, not yet), and there are no kissing scenes in Never Go Back. There’s not even an implied bedroom scene.

The Bad

Not surprisingly, Never Go Back is a very violent movie, with plenty of fist fights and gun fights. We see people shot and killed, some from close range. We watch Turner strangle a man to death with a rope-like object. We see one of the bad guys torture an attorney in a very bloody scene. And then there’s all of the punching and kicking – far too much to list here in detail. Much of it is bloodless, but some of it is not.

This latest Jack Reacher film also has about 35 coarse words, including at least six instance of the words “God” or “Jesus” being abused (details below).

Although there is no sexuality in the strict sense, there is a scene in which Turner is in her bra and Reacher is shirtless in a hotel room as they plot their next move to find the bad guys. There also is a scene in which Samantha asks Turner if she’s gay and if she and Reacher are “friends with benefits.”

Is it Entertaining?

I really enjoyed the first half of Never Go Back, although the second half slowed a bit and the storyline became a bit confusing. If I were ranking my favorite and least-favorite male-centric action movies, this one would fall in the middle. It’s OK.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

I certainly would not take any of my children – the oldest being eight – to this one. It’s way, way too violent, and the language is excessive, too. Thankfully, the sexuality is kept to a minimum. For families with teens, this film is questionable.

Discussion Questions for Families

Why are we so attracted to action films in which the men (and sometimes the women) have seemingly supernatural abilities? Do you think Reacher’s life brings him fulfillment – or does he truly have a yearning for a family? Does the violence in movies like Never Go Back numb us to violence in the real world – or is it merely entertainment? Are all of Reacher’s actions ethical – even when he steals?

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements.

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Language: s—t (11), a—(5), he—(8), da—(1), GD (2), misuse of “Jesus” (2), misuse of “God” (2), bi—h (1),d—k (3).

Michael Foust has covered the film and TV industry for more than a decade and is the father of four small children. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust. Contact him: michaelfoust (at) gmail.com

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