'Reacher' blows up Lee Child's character to 'full size' for the smaller screen

4 months ago 93
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(CNN)"Reacher" is a simple creature, establishing one clear point of demarcation from Tom Cruise's "Jack Reacher" movies: Like the character in Lee Child's books (and unlike Cruise), this dude is really, really big. And in case you somehow didn't notice, that point is overtly made over and over, which naturally doesn't stop misguided thugs from testing their luck against him.

Adding to an Amazon if-you-liked-the-movies series queue already populated by "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan," "Reacher" is an unapologetic action vehicle that trades heavily on the physical presence of Alan Ritchson, who has bounced around superhero fare (most recently DC's "Titans"). He assumes the title role here as the former military investigator, who is part Sherlock Holmes, part Incredible Hulk.

Ritchson is actually a little shorter than the 6'5" Reacher of the books, but he's big enough to dwarf practically everyone around him and prompt Military.com to rather snidely note that the character was finally "full size."

    Adapted from Child's first book "Killing Floor," the scrawny plot has Reacher walking into the small town of Margrave, Georgia, where he's hassled by the police as the prime suspect in a murder. He's cleared, but not before acquiring a major revenge motive and teaming up with a pair of local cops (Malcolm Goodwin, Willa Fitzgerald) as bodies begin piling up, hinting at a much larger conspiracy.

      Both the good guys and the bad guys keep marveling at Reacher's size, calling him, at various points, "sasquatch," "a gorilla" and (personal favorite here) "250 pounds of frontier justice." It's the frontier-justice part where "Reacher" appears most comfortable, with Reacher serving notice early that he'll do whatever is necessary -- including killing a whole lot of people -- to find out what happened.

        Ritchson isn't exactly pressed to exhibit much range in the role, but he's physically imposing and just fine at mixing glowering menace with smart-alecky comebacks, like glossing over key details about whether there's a dead body in his trunk. The one drawback is that despite a steady stream of fight scenes, there's not really a compelling villain throughout most of the show, making the eight-part series play like a collection of semi-arbitrary encounters without really building toward the inevitable showdown.

        Under showrunner Nick Santora ("Scorpion"), "Reacher" doesn't suffer from any illusions about its objectives, serving up an unpretentious action series that's as much a course correction from the movies as an extension of them.

            Taken on those terms, this version of "Killing Floor" isn't a bad way to kill time. The only irony is that while Reacher has gotten bigger, it's the picture (or rather, the screen) that got smaller.

            "Reacher" premieres Feb. 4 on Amazon.

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