Reacher (Alan Ritchson, right) and Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) have an adversarial relationship. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Jack Reacher's movie career was short-lived. Despite the star power of Tom Cruise, only two films were made from 26 books, and counting. The Prime Video series Reacher offers potential for many more Reacher adventures, but a weak first season could rule out any more.
Based on the first book, Killing Floor, Reacher (Alan Ritchson) shows up in Margrave, Ga., where he's arrested as a murder suspect. Detective Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) questions him, but when the body is identified as Reacher's brother, he insists on staying in town to solve the case.
On the plus side, the case begins right away. Ritchson has the swagger to be an intimidating action hero. His introductory scenes are most effective when he stares down cops and random bullies silently. Unfortunately, once he starts speaking, the show feeds him nothing but cheesy lines.
Ritchson may look right as author Lee Child's hulking hero, but his delivery doesn't quite match his imposing presence. He delivers every line like he's dropping a bombshell, but it's usually basic exposition or a double entendre in which he's still emphasizing the hidden meaning to make sure you get it.
For example, when Reacher says he's staying in Margrave because it's such a nice town, he just makes it obvious it's not a nice town, and he's staying for ulterior motives. Reacher makes a big show of breaking the zip ties that bind him in the jail, but it would be entirely predictable, even if it weren't in the trailer.
Correcting Finlay on the character of Frankenstein vs. Frankenstein's monster is a decades old horror nerd argument. If that came from the 1997 book, it ought to have been updated for a 2022 show.
Then, taunting Finlay about his divorce is just childish. If that's from the book, the Cruise movies wisely took the character in another direction.
Reacher's threats are weak. If he wasn't so huge, bad guys would laugh in his face for these poser lines. But, since Ritchson is built, the show gets his shirt off in both of the first two episodes. It seems they know what they're selling.
Most of Reacher's fights are brief. Once he shows his opponents that he's winning, they back off.
This Reacher does have an astute detective's sense. His subtle observations and deductions about what they reveal are strong. It's just unfortunate he's not given equally sophisticated dialogue through which to articulate them.
Flashbacks to Reacher's childhood in 1988 show him before he was big enough to intimidate everyone, and begin to depict his relationship with his brother. They will presumably become more relevant in later episodes, but for now the story stops cold when they flash back.
Perhaps Child devotees will find Reacher more faithful than the movie adaptations. For new TV viewers, Reacher can't intimidate us into watching more frustrating episodes.
Reacher premieres Friday on Prime Video.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.