Reacher - the eight-episode series on Prime - is a blast.
It's transcendent, like the best action films. Despite the carnage and brutality, Reacher is grounded in palpable humanity.
It's not for all viewers. Some will reject the relentless violence. The second and sixth episodes have particularly nasty scenes. Others may find it too contrived. But if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, it takes you on a smart, wild ride.
Reacher is based on Killing Floor, by prolific writer Lee Child. The television series has four writers and eight directors, a different one for each episode. It has some clever effects, such as after one thug is killed, the music is "Spirit in the Sky."
Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) is a former military investigator, who visits a small rural town, Margrave, Georgia, because it is the town where a blues singer he admired once lived. Reacher is arrested for murder.
He then gets involved with the black police chief Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) and female police officer Roscoe (Willa Fitzgerald) to investigate murders and sinister activities going on in the small town. They face overwhelming odds.
They combine to make an unlikely trio. Reacher is a wanderer, Finlay is a Harvard-educated outsider from Boston, Massachusetts, and Roscoe is a native of Margrave. But they share an independent spirit.
Despite the fact that Reacher is laconic (like Harry Callahan), he has evolving conversations with the other two. They all seek justice in the midst of chaos.
Reacher is like a muscle-bound Jeopardy contestant. He has an incredible scope of knowledge and a lot of competence. He even makes a comment about writer Eudora Welty. Reacher would know the answer on Jeopardy, "What is Bangladesh."
Reacher is a hero for contemporary times. He is no talking head. He is a man of action. He gets things done, no matter what the cost. He may be reminiscent with 24's Jack Bauer, in that a lot of people just around him get killed. But he prevails.
Ritchson as Reacher does what few actors can. He makes the character his own, e.g., Aden Young in Rectify. He even takes the character away from Tom Cruise, who played Reacher in 2 films. His height may help a little.
Ritchson gives the character crucial humanity. He has a taciturn charm.
The rest of the cast gives the drama credibility. Goodwin and Fitzgerald are strong and give their flawed major characters spirit.
Gavin White (young Joe Reacher) and Maxwell Jenkins (young Jack) in flashbacks play the winsome brother, but they are a bit hard to equate with their older versions. Leslie Fray plays their French mother, who has a lasting influence on them.
The series is inclusive. It has blacks in significant roles: Willie C. Carpenter (five episodes), Martin Roach (five episodes). Maria Sten (four episodes) has a Danish, Swedish, Congolese nationality. Mexican Harvey Guillen (five episodes) also has a positive role. But Spanish Americans from Venezuela are not so fortunate.
The action is extreme and often relentless. But Reacher continually is called "a good man." Like the best action films, Reacher has heart.
Reacher recently has been scheduled for a second season.
Its heart is beating strongly. And its ammo will never run out.