REACHER – Review by Diane Carson

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Reacher has intrigue, atypical characters, and social commentary

The Amazon Prime eight-episode series Reacher manages a suspenseful, amusing achievement, balancing an admirably diverse, atypical cast and a weighty dig at heartless corporate greed. Based on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, the first season adapts Killing Floor, Child’s 1997 debut, as its blueprint. And, as with many series, a murder provides the catalyst for subsequent events.

More significantly, principal, unconventional individuals defy stereotypical casting too often found ins less accomplished, cookie-cutter plots. No spoilers here as the first episode jump starts the confrontations with Jack Reacher arrested for murder immediately upon his arrival in Margrave, Georgia via a Greyhound bus. A former U.S. Army military policeman with numerous tours of duty, he’s come to Margrave to reunite with his older brother Joe, alienated for years.

Here’s the point. As Reacher, Alan Ritchson presents an imposing 6’2” figure, a body builder physique the camera loves to fetishize. However, he’s soft spoken when he does talk, warns enemies of his brutal (when necessary) intentions, and has no compunction about shooting criminals point blank, even in the back. And yet, because he’s on the side of justice, we root for him. Similarly, a petite Willa Fitzgerald plays the young police officer Roscoe Conklin who assists Reacher. She’s no nonsense, unintimidated, and resourceful, not a damsel in distress. Likewise, Frances Neagley (Maria Sten) sparkles as a private investigator who served with Reacher and adds a lifeline for his research.

As important, rounding out the cast, is Malcolm Goodwin as Oscar Finley, Margrave’s Black, calm, chief detective who prefers tweed, hails from Boston and Harvard. He’s a fish out of water and, nevertheless, a model of thoughtful commentary. Then there’s Willie C. Carpenter as the elderly Black barber Mosley who steals every scene, a man who explains why he’s stayed in racist Margrave and who clearly knows just about everything about the corruption of the Kliner Industries group. They fill out the main actors with the corrupt villains equally exceptional.

The well-written, often understated exchanges flow as the circuitous pursuit of truth proceeds apace. Do not confuse the Reacher series with the Jack Reacher series, two different works with different casts, ambiance, and styles. The eight episode Reacher series streams on Amazon Prime.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.