Review: Reacher — Movies for the Rest of Us with Bill Newcott

Reacher is not about thinking; it’s about visceral, bare-knuckled, acid-in-the-face brawling.

Scene from REacher
Malcolm Goodwin and Alan Ritchson in Reacher (Shane Mahood, Amazon Studios)

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Eight Episodes

Stars: Alan Ritchson, Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald

Now Streaming on Prime Video


Tom Cruise made two movies and a lot of money playing author Lee Child’s hardcore hero Jack Reacher — but fans of the books had a tough time accepting five-foot-seven Cruise as a guy described in the novels as six-foot-five with a face that “looked like it had been chipped out of rock by a sculptor who had ability but not much time.”

I haven’t read the books, but I’ve got a feeling this new Prime Video series gets a lot closer to primal Reacher. Six-foot-two, square-jawed Alan Ritchson — who’s made a career playing comic book heroes like Aquaman, Hawk, and Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle — is physically imposing in the role (although he could use a few more years and scars on him). He has perfected the stilted yet imposing walk of a man with a lifetime of beefing up and brawling behind him. And while the script presents Reacher as a man of few words, Ritchson manages to deliver each spare line with an unspoken postscript: “By the way, if I wanted to I could tear your heart out right now.”

Based on the first Reacher novel, 1997’s Killing Floor, this eight-part series finds Reacher, an ex-military drifter, randomly wandering into a small town — where he is promptly accused of murder, largely because he happened to be seen walking along a road near where the body was found. His innocence is soon established, but the local chief of detectives (Malcolm Goodwin, channeling a young Denzel Washington) employs some shady legal technicalities in order to press Reacher into helping him crack the case.

Reacher is at first a reluctant participant, but then the murder victim is identified: Shockingly — and improbably — it’s his own beloved brother, Joe, a Treasury Department investigator.

“Doesn’t that seem like a pretty big coincidence — you just happen to walk into town the same day your brother is murdered?” one character asks early on. And, indeed, for the next seven episodes I kept waiting for someone to explain the mind-boggling randomness of that co-occurrence.

It never happens, and I suspect both Child and the creators of this series were confident the ensuing tumult of bloody and violent diversions would push that puzzlement from the viewer’s mind. On the other hand, since the only reason Reacher stays in town is to avenge his brother’s death, you would think at some point someone would resolve the issue.

I guess I think too much, and Reacher is not about thinking; it’s about visceral, bare-knuckled, acid-in-the-face brawling. Reacher is something of a modern day Minotaur — half-bull, half-man, prowling a labyrinth of peril, reflexively doing battle with whatever challenger awaits around the next dark corner. Except, no Theseus is going to kill him; Reacher is even more destruction-proof than a Marvel superhero.

Reacher is awash in testosterone, and we would drown in the stuff if not for the hero’s perky blonde sidekick, an officer named Roscoe, played by Willa Fitzgerald. The actress is best remembered from the 2017 miniseries Little Women, and, indeed, Roscoe is to a large extent Reacher’s little woman here — earning his respect only when she fires off a perfect head shot to one of the dozens of bad guys who bite the dust during Reacher’s reign of righteous terror.

Look, if you want a smart, understated cranial classic, stream Power of the Dog. Reacher aims a good deal lower than that, delivers in frequently thrilling ways, and sends the hero lumbering into the sunset, John Wayne-like, ready to do battle with all comers.

Featured image: Malcolm Goodwin and Alan Ritchson in Reacher (Shane Mahood, Amazon Studios)

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  1. Albert Einstein said it best “Coincidences are god’s way of remaining anonymous”. As to why Jack Reacher stays in town to avenge his brothers death. John was an EPA agent working to determine why a river was being poisoned and discovered a much larger operation in laundering money involving millions of dollars. On top of that Reacher is like a dog with a bone, never letting go until it’s done!

  2. We read every Reacher, but the last, at least twice. Loved the movies! Like Tom Cruise! He did it right, the Reacher body you had to put aside. Even like the cameos’ with Lee Child. Must see this movie, get it when possible. Read as much about Lee Child as possible, always dreamed of writing, his research of characters, looking for something new was right on. Believe Reacher lives in all of us; smell, hear, see, and react just a second quicker or maybe it’s what we want to be. Jack London was my childhood favorite! Lee Child sits in this circle of friends.


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