Reacher review: It's Alan Ritchson-1, Tom Cruise-0 in this splendid Jack Reacher adaptation
- Reacher review: Alan Ritchson-starrer Amazon Prime series is a more faithful remake of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books than the Tom Cruise films could ever hope to be.
In Lee Child's books, Jack Reacher is described as extremely tall and well-built. The book Never Go Back describes him as having "a six-pack like a cobbled city street, a chest like a suit of NFL armor, biceps like basketballs, and subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue". That is the USP of Reacher, the character. When he enters a room, others are visibly intimidated. Sadly, the first time the character was portrayed on screen, the makers went for 5-feet-7-inch tall non-buff Tom Cruise.
Reacher undoes a lot of the things that the films got wrong. It casts a man who looks like the Reacher Lee Child probably envisioned. Alan Ritchson is the same height as Reacher and if anything, he may have had to bulk down to play the character. But it's not just the physique that Alan gets right.
Jack Reacher is a retired US Marine who travels across America like a vagabond and finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery in a small town in the middle of nowhere. A man with a strong moral compass, Reacher takes it upon himself to solve the mystery as he realises the stakes are too personal for him. The first season is based on Lee Child's first book Killing Floor.
Reacher already won half the battle with its casting. Alan Ritchson carries the show on his large back with his physique, charm, and performance. He makes you root for him, cheer as he breaks bones left, right and centre, and get slightly alarmed when even this beast of a man gets in a fix.
Alan is the heart of this show. But he is suitably supported by an ensemble cast led by Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald, Bruce McGill. The web series model with eight episodes allows the directors and writers to flesh out each character. There are times when Reacher isn't even on the screen and you don't miss him much because the other characters are quite engaging.
Where Reacher really scores above the films is that it largely stays faithful to its source material. Lee Child has sold millions of copies, which are widely considered among the best modern thriller series. The series very smartly decides to not deviate from the plot points and that is what makes it a good thriller. It even gets the little things right, such as Jack Reacher's mother calling him Reacher and not Jack, something that Lee Child wrote in his books. It's a sign that the makers have treated Lee's word as the gospel truth. And it works.
But Reacher isn't just for those who have read the books or even seen the Tom Cruise films. It's for anyone who loves a good thriller. There is no shortage of murder mysteries set in small towns on TV and streaming services currently. But where Reacher differentiates itself from the Broadchurches and the Mare of Eastowns of the world is its lead star. Jack Reacher subverts all known stereotypes of the hero. He is Rambo and Sherlock Holmes rolled into one. Like its creator Lee Child says, "He is stronger than you, smarter than you, and better prepared than you at everything."
But despite having such a 'superhuman' lead, Reacher manages to up the stakes continuously. It manages to show our hero as someone vulnerable. Bullets don't bounce off of him. He can be in mortal peril and often faces odds that force him to bring his A-game.
Reacher is a very well-made series. Even in times where the mystery has been solved or you know what's coming, it is done with style that makes it an interesting watch. My only problem with the show--if I were to really find one--would be that at times, it goes slightly overboard in some of the action scenes. The sound of bones crunching and bodies twisting as Reacher hits them could seem excessive. I get it that it is essentially done to show Reacher's brute strength but it can get a bit too much when you are unprepared.
Reacher begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video from February 4. Here's hoping Amazon does not cancel this soon and we can get more seasons. There are 24 Lee Child books after The Killing Floor.
Created by: Nick Santora, based on the books by Lee Child
Cast: Alan Ritchson, Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald, Bruce McGill