It’s sometimes hard to remember that at one point the Mission: Impossible series was more than just an excuse to watch Tom Cruise perform increasingly dangerous stunts. A classic 60s television show, it was not until the first film adaptation in 1996 that the seminal spy property would start to become synonymous with the diminutive actor, for better or for worse.
In 2016 Cruise would attempt to become the permanent face of yet another popular pre-existing action series, but unlike the Mission: Impossible films, the Jack Reacher duology received a lukewarm reception that caused the series’ foray into film to fizzle out in relative anonymity. Now, six years after the last film, Amazon Studios is taking another stab at bringing the book series to the screen with the aptly titled Reacher, a series that is much better cast, full of action, and only a little hard to follow at times.
Although I have not actually read any of Lee Child’s 26 Jack Reacher novels, I am fairly confident after watching the first season of the Amazon Prime series that “huge and intimidating” are vital traits for the titular character to have. Tom Cruise is good at what he does, but at 5’ 7”, he is hardly either of these things. Alan Ritchson, on the other hand, is a towering beast of a man at 6’ 2” and practically embodies the idea of terrifying yet oddly approachable. Reacher himself is stoic and emotionless, which sometimes makes him a hard main character to follow, so it’s lucky that Ritchson is buoyed by an exceptional supporting cast here as well.
The good guys are easy to root for, and the bad guys are so effortlessly easy to hate that if I ever saw any of the actors on the street I’d have to remind myself that they are just actors, not the irresistibly punchable jerks that they perfectly portrayed. When the twists and turns of the story and the mystery at the heart of it all became a little too much to follow, it was author Lee Child’s characters that kept me interested and coming back for more.
When you have a main character as big and scary as Reacher, action scenes naturally follow. The fight choreography in Reacher season 1 is impressively done and unflinchingly brutal, livening things up frequently enough that the story never gets dull in its 8 episode run. The story is well-paced and intriguing, although I definitely don’t recommend taking a week or two in between episodes like I did.
The mystery has a lot of parts to it, and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention or if you’ve forgotten any of the names on the suspect list. Reacher is also not a show you want to watch with your kids, as f-bombs are not uncommon and nudity is not unheard of either. But if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned detective story set in a small town with a dark secret, look no further than Reacher season 1. This is one that we are very lucky to have gotten away from Tom Cruise.
Reacher season 1 is now available on Amazon Prime.