By: Martin Carr
Jack Reacher has been alive and kicking in the imagination of author Lee Child since 1997 when he was introduced in his first novel, Killing Floor. Since then, the prolific writer has clocked up one book every year without fail, with number 27 due for release this October. Given those figures, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling.
It was Tom Cruise who convinced Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie to adapt One Shot, the ninth novel in the series. It was eventually renamed Jack Reacher and arrived on the big screen in 2012. Despite avid readers being less than impressed with Cruise in the title role, a sequel was greenlit.
But that is where Lee Child drew the line, choosing to close the door on the Cruise era and begin anew with an eight-episode TV series. Man mountain Alan Ritchson plays the titular character, who is arrested and charged for a murder he didn't commit following his arrival in a small Georgian town and must fight to prove his innocence.
Read on to find out how this new-look Reacher compares with that which has come before.
Ritchson vs Cruise
Comparisons between the two actors are inevitable as audiences weigh up the pros and cons of each portrayal. Purely in terms of stature, Ritchson wins hands down as his Reacher stands at almost 6 foot 5 inches tall. That being said, it's not all about height or muscle mass. Over the course of two films, Cruise embodied Reacher through a combination of razor-sharp intellect and unflinching brutality, which more than made up for his physical shortcomings. His skill in depicting those traits on-screen certainly shouldn't be overlooked, even if his overall impact failed to win over the majority.
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Similarly with Ritchson, although he has the physical advantage, which makes him a better Reacher on paper, there is more to him than mere brawn. Throughout this shiny new adaptation, the protagonist demonstrates the keen deductive reasoning that we witnessed from Cruise's portrayal. He does use physical force to inflict injury, but not without grounds to do so.
TV vs Film
The biggest contrast between the two adaptations is undoubtedly their respective mediums. In this new rendering, Prime Video has given showrunner Nick Santora more freedom to explore violence on-screen. Reacher is more graphic, which aligns with the spirit of the novels and helps herald in this fresh era for the franchise. Moments of a similar ilk in the movies are watered down, by comparison, which was a bugbear for many fans.
That greater level of autonomy, which has become synonymous with the streamers, has allowed Santora to take more risks and, in turn, make a bigger splash.
Reacher 2.0 is cleverly plotted, perfectly paced and isn't short of depth. From his arrival in Margrave by bus, this Reacher consistently tips a hat to its cinematic second cousins, if only to mirror specific scenes. The dialogue is slick, characterisation concise and there are a smattering of bone dry comedic moments that loosen tensions slightly as the murders continue to stack up.
For anyone with reservations, it becomes evident in minutes that Ritchson is a perfect piece of casting. He has lifted elements of Hank Hall from his three-season run on Titans (minus the spandex) to give his uber-jacked ex-military private eye his own unique identity, which is no small feat when you're taking the reins from Tom Cruise. And it should once again be noted that as much as his image is a benefit, it is Ritchson's delivery and his overall embodiment of the role that trumps what Cruise delivered.
Willa Fitzgerald’s Roscoe, a member of the Margrave police force and Malcolm Goodwin’s Finlay, the chief of police are also good additions to the story alongside a number of other ensemble players that further flesh out this revamp.
Choosing to walk away from a third Reacher film in favour of pursuing a new direction was clearly a smart move from Child, not necessarily because the films did anything wrong, but because characters sometimes need a different environment in which to shine.