Trailer for Tom Cruise's new 'Jack Reacher' shows a man on a (murky) mission

"Jack Reacher" was one of those borderline sequel calls. When the Tom Cruise action vehicle came out in 2012 it took in only a decent $80 million domestically, but a stronger $138 million overseas was apparently enough to push Paramount and Skydance to undertake a new film. In contrast, Cruise's Hitler-assassination-themed "Valkyrie," also directed by Christopher McQuarrie, managed $83 million at  home and $121 million abroad but no follow-up ever materialized. Then again, the sequel possibilities were a little more limited there.

On Wednesday, film fans got the fullest glimpse yet of the new Reacher tale, which in a turn that might makes skeptics' joke-cracking a little too easy is titled "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back." Jack the Second is a departure from the previous ‎installment.  It's still based on a Lee Child novel‎ (the 18th in the Reacher series compared to the earlier film's ninth, "One Shot") and centers on the same rogue former soldier.


But directing duties have now been taken over by Edward Zwick, with collaborator Marshall Herskovitz among the writers, after McQuarrie has continued working on another Cruise series, "Mission: Impossible." Chunks of the supporting cast are different too, with Cobie Smulders swapping in for the first movie's Rosamund Pike as the female lead/law-and-order Reacher ally.

Paramount hopes to harness these elements to build on the first movie instead of losing momentum for it, as some sequels can do, when it hits theaters Oct. 21.

"Never Go Back," the novel, centers on Reacher's return to his headquarters to reunite with old commanding officer Susan Turner, and then a blizzard of events including an accusation of a long-ago murder and a revelation of a long-forgotten child. The trailer for "Never Go Back," the movie, however, eschews plot detail in favor of some hand-to-hand (or, more accurately in Reacher's case, elbow-to-face) combat scenes.

"Two things are going to happen in the next 90 seconds," Reacher says early on, continuing the character's imminent-prophecy tendencies as he turns the tables on a swaggering sheriff. What follows is a montage of fight and action scenes, heavy on the intensity if light on plot details. (We can only assume the book's major beats are here; the trailer does not reveal them.)

Instead, character and tone are the focus. Reacher is positioned as a stone-faced one-man wrecking crew. With U.S. authorities having betrayed him, audiences gets a sense of a man both slightly unhinged and steadfastly on a mission, in the manner of the previous film and, indeed, many previous Cruise films.

The trailer builds to a monologue of sorts, "You think you're above the law. But I'm not the law," Reacher says. "So you should start running, because I'm going to start hunting. And when I find you, I'm going to kill you all." The new movie is on a similar quest, bloodthirsty and seeking justice after being wronged by its country the last time out.