Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher books are about an ex-military crime-solving prodigy who’s built like brick shithouse, has a mind like a steel trap, and is basically good at fucking everything “because Army.” He travels the United States as a no-frills drifter using his exceptional skills to beat up bad guys and solve mysteries frequently relating to injustices perpetrated against his fellow servicemen. This allows him to comfortably straddle a line between just patriotic enough to be righteous about the brotherhood of armed service while being rebellious and anti-establishment enough to defy cretinous superiors and brace at bureaucratic rigidity.And, for some reason, instead of becoming a syndicated TV vehicle for whoever the present-day equivalent of Kevin Sorbo or Lorenzo Llamas is, somebody decided that this needed to be a movie franchise for Tom Cruise whenever the 54 year-old action star needs to get some jogging in between increasingly-interchangeable Mission: Impossible sequels.The first movie was really nothing special – at all – but at least it had the temerity to lean into the ridiculousness of its own premise: It was essentially wall-to-wall scenes where characters talked up “JACK REACHER!” as this legendary mythic god among ass-kickers who beats up dozens of guys at a time like nothing, is so good at using every conceivable weapon that people recognize him by taking rifle shots that “only the famous Jack Reacher could make!,” turns every woman immediately wobbly and smitten at the first glance of him, and basically playing him off like a black velvet painting of John Cena in human form. But meanwhile up onscreen it was still just itty-bitty adorable lil’ Tommy Cruise. Oh and they also got Werner Herzog to be the bad guy, so… points for that.The new film doesn’t really have much of that or anything else going on – to be honest, the whole thing feels like a really obvious rush-job; right down to most of it relocating from Washington DC to New Orleans for no particular reason, aka current movie-location shorthand for “We’re doing this shit so cheaply we’re not only taking that sweet-ass Louisiana tax credit, we’re not even gonna bother dressing the city up like it’s supposed to be someplace else!”As far as the story is concerned, there really isn’t much of one. Jack Reacher (“What? Not the Jack Reacher!!?”) shows up in DC basically looking to make an impromptu booty-call on a female Army Major he’s been playing phone tag with and discovers that she’s been framed for murder as part of a conspiracy to cover up nefarious goings on involving Blackwater-style Private Military Contractors because that’s who you use for bad guys when you want to do a movie about shady shit going down in the military but don’t want the actual military to be at all cross with you – heaven forbid.They whole thing basically turns into an oddly slow-paced cross-country chase story that – for reasons I’m assuming made more thematic sense as part of a multi-volume book series than they do here – for some reason also needs to involve Reacher’s maybe-maybe-not previously unknown teenager daughter getting dragged along as Reacher and Cobie Smulders as The Major dodge a singularly uninteresting set of bad guys until the film has run approximately long enough to qualify as a feature and presumably give the film’s predominantly China-based production investors the ability to have Tom Cruise’s face on Chinese movie posters for the late-Fall moviegoing season.The sole noteworthy thing in the film is finding out just how much of action-hero asset the Marvel movies have been overlooking in Smulders. Sure, she gets to fire off some guns and look slick in a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform as Maria Hill, but here she gets full-on knock-around drag-out beatdown scenes and she comes off like a legit beast!It’s a hell of a physical turn and provides the only remotely lively or refreshing moments the otherwise disposable feature can muster… even if at this point after Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow and Rebecca Ferguson in the last Mission Impossible I imagine we’re all used to this exact character being a Tom Cruise movie mainstay – what better way to bank progressive-feminist goodwill while also helping the increasingly all-too-human seeming Mr. Cruise lighten his fight-scene load?This movie would probably be offensively terrible if it bothered to try hard enough, but we aren’t even that lucky – and I’m not sure whether or not that’s actually preferable. The only reason I can imagine to actually watch Jack Reacher: Never Go Back would be to see exactly how little impact a film can leave while still, technically, existing.