Star Rating:

Reacher 16+

Streaming On: Watch Reacher on Amazon Prime

Season: 1

Actors: Alan Ritchson, Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald, Bruce McGill

Release Date: Friday 4th February 2022

Genre(s): Crime, Thriller

Running time: 500 minutes

Very often is the case that you'll find TV shows or movies that come from a potboiler source being infused with weight and circumstance in order to justify the circumstances of its adaptation.

Case in point are the two movies that saw Tom Cruise play former US Army investigator Jack Reacher.

The books upon which both movies were based are fabulously successful, yes, but they're airport novels. You'd buy them on your way to somewhere warm, read them by whatever body of water you're lying beside for the few days, and you'll either loan the book to someone else or you'll drop them off at a charity shop to be recycled and read again. The movies, however, were big affairs. It's Tom Cruise, after all. He is quite literally the biggest movie star in the world. Christopher McQuarrie, who previously scripted 'The Usual Suspects', wrote and directed it. Famed German auteur and occasional actor Werner Herzog played the villainous Zek. Robert Duvall had a supporting role in it.

The weight and circumstance of all this sat unevenly on 'Jack Reacher', and its sequel, 'Never Go Back', was equally uneven, despite putting Ed Zwick in for McQuarrie and lowering the star power of the supporting cast. Much of the criticism levelled against these adaptations, however, was aimed at Tom Cruise. In author Lee Child's descriptions, Reacher was an absolute unit built like a brick shithouse who could crush a man's skull with his bare hands and had all the charm and charisma of a bulldozer. Were this movie made in the '80s, somebody like Arnold Schwarzengger or Jesse 'The Body' Ventura would have been a decent fit for the role.

This time around, Prime Video and showrunner Nick Santora have done right by both Lee Child's descriptions of the character and by the very nature of the source material itself. It's not that 'Reacher' is low-rent and cheap-looking, because it isn't, or that its cast is made up of reliable, mid-tier talents either. It's that 'Reacher' understands that straightforward, hard-boiled stories rarely need further accoutrement in order to be effective. They're strong enough on their own. Nobody would read something like Dashiel Hammett's 'Red Harvest' or watch something like 'Columbo' and think that it needs huge stars, heavy budgets, or deep subtextual analysis in order for it to have value and purpose.

With this in mind, the first season of 'Reacher' follows the plot of 'Killing Floor', Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel and is about as faithful an adaptation as one could hope for. While some details have been shifted and altered, Alan Ritchson's performance as Jack Reacher is pretty much taken straight from the page. He towers over just about everyone, he looks like a professional bodybuilder, he walks like he's got a rod shoved up his behind, and he's impossibly smart. Likewise, the dialogue has the same hardboiled detective figures of speech woven into it. All it needs is a period setting with Venetian blinds everywhere for the full effect.

Each of the episodes ends on just the right note, and brings you right back for the next episode without so much as a glimmer of light between them. While that might feel like it's purpose-built for bingeing in a weekend, the reality is that the novel was written like an honest-to-goodness pageturner. You can either keep in it, or you can fold a page-corner and come back to it whenever and pick right up where you left off. Equally, the plotting and the structure is so rigid and cleanly defined that you're never left too confused as to who's doing what, or who's going where.

'Reacher', throughout its eight episodes, keeps the pace chugging along and the performances from Alan Ritchson, Willa Fitzgerald, and Malcolm Goodwin in the lead roles are all sturdy and reliable. Likewise, Bruce McGill is enjoyably corrupt as the mayor of Margrave, the fictitious southern town where the story plays out. The run of directors, all of them hardened TV veterans, know exactly how to keep action and story moving in tandem and throughout the eight episodes, it never feels like it's flagging or losing steam.

Quite honestly, 'Reacher' isn't groundbreaking, nor could it be accurately described as prestige television as well. Like the titular character, it's about as subtle as a kick in the face, but it's just as effective. Not everything needs to be turned inside out and upside down, reflected back through endless analyses. Sometimes, it's enough for it to be enjoyable and entertaining. 'Reacher' has that in spades.