Hollywood put a small guy on the big screen twice when adapting Lee Child’s highly successful Jack Reacher series of books, and having learned its lesson, it has finally decided to put a big guy on the small screen with the recent TV adaptation.
Fans of Child’s Reacher know the character better than any fans of other well-known literary characters because Child deemed it so – Reacher is a quiet but massive 6 foot 5 inch former soldier who travels by bus across the United States, helping right wrongs. So when Hollywood legend handed the role to Tom Cruise, there was little chance that his talkative and diminutive version would sit well with audiences.
While Cruise gave his best in both cinematic outings, Reacher, the eight-episode adaptation of Killing Floor, Child’s debut novel that introduced the character, is a back to basics take on Jack Reacher, this time with Alan Ritchson as the lead.
At 6 foot 3 inch, the well-chiselled Ritchson, who made his debut as Arthur Curry aka Aquaman on TV’s Smallville certainly fits the role physically, and if anyone caught him recently in TV’s Titans as Hank Hall aka Hawk, there’s no denying he can handle the aggressive demeanour of the lone wandering hero when needed.
Unlike the always smug-looking Cruise, Ritchson is more natural looking as Reacher, knows when to keep quiet, when to listen, and when it becomes appropriate to deliver a timely monologue to move the plot along. The first book primes audiences well with all they need to know about the lone-wolf, his family, and how he grew up to be the man he is. Of course, as with most of his books, he meets that one person who can help him, in this case, Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin, iZombie), captain and Chief Detective of the Margrave Police Department, as well as the one female in the tale, police officer Roscoe Conklin ( Willa Fitzgerald), as they figure out why Reacher’s appearance in Margrave coincided with several murders that naturally, Reacher is accused of committing.
Unlike a movie that condenses plenty from the source material, the eight-episode spends time fleshing out the premise, mystery and characters, and showing off Reacher’s keen instincts, his keen sense of deduction and of course, his ability to take on the ruffians and whatever other gangsters dispatched against them.
If you’re a fan of the violence from John Wick, Reacher does an amazing job putting Ritchson’s stature to great effect, and having him take down some thugs to great effect. Whether it’s breaking the nose or bones of incarcerated criminals, South American soldiers or murderers, Reacher does it with great skills and bone-cracking satisfaction. Sure, as Hollywood does, there will be instances where the odds are stacked against him to the extreme, but Reacher is still able to dispatch them but with some disbelief.
The one thing the show has to face, as did both movies with Cruise, is that Child’s stories, while great on paper, don’t always translate well to live-action, in that audiences are reminded that such realistic stories, without the spy stuff ala Jason Bourne, or intricate conspiracies ala Sherlock Holmes, can be too grounded and run-off-the mill. The good news is that this is only the first season, and with Child involved in the series, there are still several other books to explore, before we get there.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Ritchson has big shoes to fill, and delivers in bringing Jack Reacher to life at every turn. Amazon’s adaptation delivers on the story where it matters and it proves that the right casting matters.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10