I usually kick off my reviews of book or graphic novel adaptations by talking about how I don’t really read very much, so have no point of reference for the movie/TV version that I’ve watched. Well, despite the fact that I have actually started reading a fair bit since the first lockdown, I’m yet to tackle the hugely successful Reacher series from author Lee Child, a series that has sold more than 100 million worldwide. I have however seen the movies starring Tom Cruise as Reacher, and am also aware of the outrage from fans of the books at what they saw to be a serious piece of miscasting (Reacher being a towering 6’5″ in the books, with Cruise only 5’7″). Now though, Reacher is headed to Prime Video for an eight-episode adaptation of the first volume in the book series, Killing Floor. Hopefully, this version resonates with fans in a way that the movies didn’t.
We first meet veteran military police investigator Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) as he disembarks a bus and heads towards the small town of Margrave, Georgia. These days, Reacher is a drifter, carrying no phone and only the barest of essentials and his arrival happens to coincide with the first homicide that Margrave has experienced in 20 years. As he settles down in the local diner, police swoop in and arrest Reacher for the murder, backed up by witnesses who claim to have seen him fleeing the scene of the crime.
Reacher calmly allows himself to be taken into custody and while in the local police cell he meets chief of detectives Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) and female officer Roscoe (Willa Fitzgerald). Reacher is able to demonstrate his keen analytical mind and detective skills, pushing the police to investigate further while his alibi is checked out. A piece of paper found on the dead man leads them to banker Paul Hubble, who immediately confesses to the murder, but while it’s clear that neither Hubble nor Reacher were responsible for the murder, they’re moved to a state prison holding cell until their innocence can be confirmed. However, the pair are “mistakenly” placed among the rest of the prison inmates, rather than in a separate holding cell, and an attempt on their life is made. This turns out to be the first of many occasions throughout the series where Reacher expertly and brutally unleashes his military combat skills in order to take out the bad guys.
Following that unfortunate series of events, and after his alibi checks out, Reacher just wants to forget about his arrest and move on. But things soon become personal, revealing a deep-seated conspiracy within the town, and Reacher decides to stick around for a while, shadowing Roscoe and Finlay while using his unique set of skills to help crack the case and deliver justice.
By episode two we’ve already got another murder on our hands, and this time it’s particularly gruesome and eye-watering. Meanwhile, people do still seem to want to pick a fight with Reacher, the stranger who seems to have arrived right at the very moment that trouble kicks off in town. And the conspiracy continues to become all the more intricate too, involving counterfeit money, possibly dodgy high ranking officials and a group of Venezuelans with their own set of keen fighting skills.
Early last year, I remember laughing at Jenny on Channel 4 show Gogglebox, as she revealed the notebook she uses in order to keep track of all the characters, motives and theories that arose while watching the BBC show Line of Duty. As the episodes of Reacher rolled by, I began to realise just what a good idea that actually was, and definitely something not to be laughed at. Reacher is a complex conspiracy thriller that demands your absolute full attention for every seemingly minor character or plot detail that arises and there were many occasions during overly intense exposition dialogue when my wife and I had to pause an episode for a moment just to ask “who are they talking about?”, “why are they going there?” or “why are they doing that?”!
But that’s not to say that Reacher isn’t an enjoyable watch. Adapting the Reacher novels into a series rather than a movie definitely seems to be the better option as it allows for a much slower picking apart of such an in-depth case. And it also allows plenty of time for the inclusion of some character development – not only of Reacher, whose childhood and family life are shown in a number of flashbacks throughout the series, but also of Finlay and Roscoe, who manage to form a pretty solid team alongside Reacher. So, by the time the finale does come around, we’ve racked up plenty of bad guys who need taking care of, plenty of scores to settle and a few juicy loose ends to tie up. And it’s an explosive, tense, action-packed and well-earned finale. A great ending to a strong first season.
I’m not sure what die-hard fans of the novels will make of Alan Ritchson and his portrayal of Reacher, but I certainly enjoyed his performance, not to mention that of Malcolm Goodwin and Willa Fitzgerald as Finlay and Roscoe. Reacher has a keen mind, a no-nonsense attitude and isn’t someone to be messed with. And, according to my wife, he’s also “easy on the eye”. Definitely an interesting character.
In an interview with The Guardian, author Lee Child said “Part of Reacher’s appeal is that he’s very intimidating. Even without doing anything, if he walks into a room, people are a little bit uneasy. It was felt that, for all his virtues, Cruise didn’t represent that. So the readers were cross from the beginning”. Despite having not read the books, I do feel that what they’ve achieved here certainly seems to have captured that appeal and I could quite happily watch more seasons of Reacher. I just hope that enough fans of the books agree with me and it actually happens.
Reacher will be available to stream on Prime Video from February 4th
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.