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The crime drama series successfully replaced Tom Cruise
Just over a decade ago, fans of Jack Reacher, the main character from Lee Child's crime novels, celebrated as they finally got their wish to see the huge, 6-foot-5-inch former military major on the big screen when Paramount Pictures announced it was adapting Child's 2005 book One Shot. And the man it picked to play Jack Reacher was... 5-foot-7-inch Tom Cruise. While Cruise is a bona fide action star and starred in two Jack Reacher films, he could fit in Jack Reacher's pocket. That wrong gets righted in Amazon Prime Video's Reacher, which reclaims the character as Child intended: as a totally yoked he-man who can bench 350 and double-pump dunk without a stepladder. Or at the very least reach the mugs from the top cupboard.
When moving on from Cruise, Child said, "The size of Reacher is really, really important and it's a big component of who he is." It may seem frivolous, especially with camera tricks these days, but the practical effect is crucial to the show, as creator Nick Santora (Scorpion) is banking on Reacher being a hit because Jack Reacher is the ideal male fantasy of rugged girth and pecs that have their own gravitational pull. Enter Alan Ritchson (Blood Drive, DC's Hank Hall/Hawk), who is 6 feet 2 inches tall and, looking at his barreled chest, about the same in width, shoulder to shoulder. There aren't many scenes in which Ritchson doesn't fill the screen with his massive stature or tower over his co-stars, a clear and effective design to reset the character for audiences.
But Reacher is more than just a hunk of beef; the character, who left the military to traverse the country doing odd jobs and solving uncrackable cases while living off his pension, has a detective's brain above that near-nonexistent neck, one that can track the path of the moon to determine where a shooter would have hidden in tall grass three nights before, or identify the origin of a trained killer by the style of headbutt he delivers (both of these things happen in Reacher). Reacher also eats beef jerky, gets his clothes from a thrift store (he does wear a tie eventually, but he ends up using it as a weapon, F yeah!), and only speaks when it matters. He has a sense of honor, which he's willing to break when it serves the greater purpose. He may have committed some war crimes, but they were the good kind of war crimes. He's here to help those who need help, but he's not a charity. These details are carefully chosen; Reacher appeals to that primal desire in men to walk out of a cornfield, play linebacker and make a critical 4th-and-1 stop, then beat up a gang of no-gooders harassing a pretty little lady in the parking lot.
In Reacher, drawn from Reacher's debut in the 1997 book Killing Floor, Jack does something even cooler. Stepping off a bus in the town of Margrave, Georgia, to find the deathplace of a blues musician he admired (see? cool!), Reacher gets pulled into a murder mystery first as a suspect and later as a sort of consultant when it gets personal, helping solve the case with the Margrave Police Department, which includes the feisty and fetching officer Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald) and the studious Northerner Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin), a police detective. From there, Reacher is a pretty standard police caper, with heaps of investigations that take them from Point A to Point B, tracing dead body after dead body while, thankfully, moronic locals and South American hitmen pick fights with Reacher despite the fact that he's build like a brick house.
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Tonally, there was a real opportunity to elevate the genre here, particularly with Jack. There are moments when things are lighthearted and Ritchson deadpans a line for laughs, fully winking at the fact that Reacher is a bit of a robotic killing, crime-solving machine. And the show knows this at times, too. "You're a good man," an earnest Roscoe says to him after he whisks her to safety and explains his checkered past in a middle-of-the-season episode. "If anyone comes through that door, shoot them," he replies. It's back to the sense of male fantasy; Reacher's all business, and that clashes with those he works with, creating humor and character for the show.
But most of Reacher is a standard page-to-script adaptation of a dad's bedside table book, with only a nominally interesting mystery of corruption and greed taking up more space than it should. Ironically, Reacher is more fascinating when Reacher is scarfing down a plate of BBQ like a grizzly bear in a competitive eating competition or teasing Finlay, who is Black, about his lack of blues music knowledge and affinity for the classic rock band Kansas than he is while on the hunt for vast conspiracies with clues in blood trails. But Reacher doesn't commit to that fun side of the character as much as it could. It's safely played to capture fans of Amazon's other popular Jack, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, and it should do the trick, but Reacher, which is a perfectly fine dad show but not a must-see, doesn't have aspirations to go much further beyond that.
Premieres: Feb. 4 on Amazon Prime Video (all eight episodes)
Who's in it: Alan Ritchson, Willa Fitzgerald, Malcolm Goodwin, Kristin Kreuk
Who's behind it: Nick Santora, creator of Scorpion
For fans of: Crime novels, yoked dudes, cop stuff
How many episodes we watched: 5