Jack Reacher, the hero of Lee Child’s long-running mystery thriller series, is a highly decorated ex-military police officer who now lives an uprooted life as a drifter. He just wants to “wander,” as he puts it, and see parts of America he’s never seen before. Along the way, he finds himself in thorny situations that demand his unique skills. He’s a brilliant, observant researcher with an analytical mind, that’s for sure, but his most impressive talents are hand-to-hand combat: he’s six feet tall, 250 pounds and an absolutely ruthless fighter. And wherever he is, he finds new mysteries to solve and new villains to fight.
Reacher’s story begins in the 1997 novel kill floorwhich won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and forms the basis for the first season of a new Amazon Prime Video Seriespremiere on February 4.
In kill floorReacher wanders into the (fictional) town of Margrave, Georgia, and is almost immediately charged with murder. He’s innocent, but that doesn’t stop the local authorities from throwing him into state prison with another suspect for the weekend; there Reacher gets into a blood-curdling brawl but doesn’t survive, all the worse for wear and tear. After his alibi is corrected and he is released, he discovers that the murder victim was someone very close to him, who happened to be in the same town. Reacher tries to find the killer with the help of local police Finlay and Roscoe; as more bodies pile up, the mystery gets more complicated and you even have to travel to New York. The final solution is attractively clever, and the story ends in a satisfying conflagration – before Reacher heads out to wander again, of course. (Twenty-five more series followed; No plan Bco-written by Child and his younger brother Andrew, will hit shelves in October.)
The new show, in which Child and showrunner Nick Santora (Scorpion) as executive producers, is impressively loyal to kill floor† It not only matches the many twists and turns of that story, but also delivers some really excellent fight scenes for action connoisseurs. They’re as bloody as they are on the page – and that’s saying something: ‘Two huge hands on my throat. He strangled me… I reached out and broke his little fingers. I heard the splinter of knuckles above the roar in my ears. Then I broke his ring finger. More fragmentation. Like a chicken pulling apart.” The show’s fight choreography is so good it really makes you worry about the actors.
The main characters are impeccably cast, which cannot be said of previous adaptations of Child’s novels. Those Movies – 2012’s Jack Reacher (based on A shot) and 2016 Jack Reacher: Never Back (based on the Kirkus-starred novel) – featuring Tom Cruise, a highly capable action star, but one who is nothing like Reacher. The streaming series stars TitansAlan Ritchson, who has an appropriately intimidating presence and convincingly portrays Reacher’s ironclad determination. He plays the character as someone who isn’t really interested in making friends, but who is very good to have by your side – unlike Cruise, who just can’t turn off his sympathy for movie stars, despite himself.
However, the show’s supporting cast is much more affable. Malcolm Goodwin, who was a highlight of the beloved CW show iZombieplays frustrated veteran police detective Finlay with a lot of charm, and Challenge me‘s Willa Fitzgerald, as uniformed cop Roscoe, brings a welcome harshness to a role that, in the novel, consists mainly of giving Reacher a temporary love interest. Fans of Child’s books will also see an unexpected, albeit brief, appearance by private security officer Frances Neagley, played by Swamp thing‘s Maria Sten; she is a recurring character in the novels, but not until without fail, the sixth in the series. She’ll likely appear in future seasons of the show, but that can’t be said for Finlay and Roscoe, which is a shame. There’s no other way: Jack Reacher was born a walking man.
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor†