As soon as the man simply known as Reacher (Alan Ritchson) steps off the Greyhound bus in Margrave Georgia, your attention in thrust immediately on the titular character. Without saying a word, his stature does the talking through sheer size and intimidation. Would anyone really want to go up against a guy who stands 6’5 and weighs about 250? Add to that his intelligence – Reacher can kill a person 100 different ways with just his thumb. No person in their right mind would go toe to toe with this giant yet once he’s about to enjoy the state’s best slice of peach pie, Reacher is framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
His alibi is simple enough – he heard jazz artist Blind Blake died in Margrave and decided to visit the quant little town. He’s a nomad – simply traveling wherever he sees fit when something sparks an interest. The thought of this being the truth to Margrave police officer Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald) and detective Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin) is unlikely given the decorated military past of Reacher and the brutality of the murders that took place, but Reacher repeats his story with absolute conviction and stoicism that the story isn’t too far-fetched.
Reacher doesn’t even fit in the handcuffs – his wrists are too muscular.
Show creator Nick Santora adapts Lee Child’s inaugural novel titled Killing Floor with Ritchson commanding the screen. The previous actor to play Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise, doesn’t quite fit the role though his tenacity in approaching an action role is enough to be commended. Ritchson is a freight train – first staying somewhat mute and his tough expression doing the talking. But as quickly as Reacher is apprehended and starts to speak more freely, his intelligence takes over, he’s more well-rounded than initially led to believe.
For the genre, speaking less and letting the physicality do the talking has been done effortlessly on the big screen by Keanu Reeves in John Wick and more recently by Bob Odenkirk in Nobody so having this iteration of Reacher be a man of many talents is better suited to the story.
What starts with one murder snowballs into another which snowballs into a conspiracy of drugs and counterfeit money. Not all is what it seems in the quiet town of Margrave. It only took a few to rattle the cages. What keeps Reacher involved besides Finley threatening to lock him up is the death of his brother Joe (Christopher Russell) (one of the victims). Reacher and his brother Joe don’t speak – Reacher doesn’t even know what Joe does for a living, but their bond is solid as Reacher’s headbutts. Flashbacks pause the narrative to establish their relationship as kids – Maxwell Jenkins plays a young Reacher while Gavin White plays a young Joe. Santora uses these flashbacks to establish each brother’s character, showing that no matter how distant they become, one will stop at nothing to aid the other.
Certain stories are better served in longform entertainment. This style has clearly worked for a similar Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan (anyone else have fingers crossed these two 6-foot somethings crossover down the line) and it works for Lee Child’s character. Immediately Santora doesn’t waste any time throwing the titular character into the fire. Add in a few twists, a wealthy industrialist Kliner (Currie Graham), his son KJ (Chris Webster) as the villains and a lot of betrayal and the output is a serviceable adaptation that will intrigue new viewers who have no experience with the source material and keep those experienced satisfied and coming back week after week.
Possibly the most under-appreciated aspect of Reacher is the environment. Who knew such a small town could have a giant personality? Its these towns that also house the darkest secrets and corruption – Grover Teale (Bruce McGill) throwing Reacher, Roscoe, and Finley off the scent, protecting his selfishness rather than being a voice of justice. Beautiful clear skies and sunny during the day but when the nighttime comes, the mood shifts, and the rain begins to pour juxtaposing the true darkness web of conspiracy unfolding (channeling David Fincher’s Se7en).
The downfall of Reacher resides in how many plots and side distractions that pop up. Characters come in and out with their own baggage that steal the attention from the main trio. A mix of tones also hinder Reacher from consistency. One moment the we’re watching the trio solve a murder mystery and the next there’s a serial killer vibe and the scene cuts to a foreign country focused on a method of torture practices mixed with gruesome murders of cops getting their extremities cut off and fed to them. If it’s disturbing enough to make medical examiner Jasper (Harvey Guillén) gag, it may not fit well within the sandbox.
As a trio, Ritchson, Fitzgerald and Goodwin form good chemistry with one another. From the playful banter to the more serious moments, the three are always on the same page which translates to their character counterparts. And in times of coverups, conspiracies, murder, blackmail – Santora throws a romance between Reacher and his equally ferocious yet a foot shorter partner Roscoe.
Reacher the character is at his best when he’s unhinged and free to make his own choices during the investigation. When he’s backed into a corner and given no options, his brute force is mesmerizing. Don’t people in a small-town talk to one another? Why do people keep picking a fight with Reacher? Better for us with the entertainment value. For a big bulky guy Ritchson moves like smoke – blink and you’ll miss him and the 3 to 4 guys who think they can take him easily due to liquid courage are down and running away. With time and preparation, Reacher is the most dangerous person on screen.
Developed By: Nick Santora
Episodes Directed By: Thomas Vincent, Sam Hill, Stephen Surjik, Christine Moore, Norberto Barba, Omar Madha, Lin Oeding, & MJ Bassett
Music By: Tony Morales
Cinematography: Ronald Plante
Starring: Alan Ritchson, Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald, Chris Webster, Bruce McGill, Maria Sten
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Release Date: February 4, 2022
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
My Score: 4 out of 5
Based On: Killing Floor by Lee Child