Unfriendly giant

Published date19 December 2023
Publication titleSignal
IN crime thrillers it is usually the evil kingpin who gets nicknamed Mr Big. But it also works for Alan Ritchson, the XXL star of Reacher, the Prime Video adaptation of the wildly popular novel series by Lee Child. As the righteous ex-military man-mountain Jack Reacher, Ritchson looks as if he could arm-wrestle a silverback gorilla. This was seen as a major plus when the series launched in early 2022. The actor’s ability to open beer bottles with his biceps seemed to win over those fans of the books who felt short-changed by Tom Cruise’s compact movie incarnation

If anything Ritchson is even more top-heavy in season two, his absurdly buff shoulders resembling beach balls filled with cement. A couple of years have passed but Reacher is still a trouble-magnet drifting around the US with nothing but a toothbrush. He is reintroduced in small-town Arkansas foiling a random carjacking with wince-inducing efficiency.

Then things get personal. A loyal lieutenant from his army days has died in suspicious circumstances. Is it a one-off or a targeted vendetta against Reacher’s former military police unit? This season — based on the 11th Reacher novel, Bad Luck and Trouble — is a getting-the-band-back-together story, with the retired major reuniting with some of his old squad to extract payback.

His sidekicks include capable investigator Neagley (Maria Sten, returning after an extended cameo in season one), forensic accountant Dixon (Serinda Swan) and smart-aleck knife man O’Donnell (Shaun Sipos). Surrounding the laconic loner with a chatty Scooby gang is a smart move. They can also make fun of Reacher’s eccentric life choices without fear of injury.

Reacher’s unauthorised investigation will eventually lead to Robert Patrick’s tetchy corporate heavy. We know he’s the baddie because he had Reacher’s pal chucked out of a helicopter in the opening scene. But while conflicting leads are untangled and nondescript henchmen are brutalised, the actual plot — involving shady tech deals, corrupt cops and a casually lethal middle-man — remains opaque.

The problem is that Reacher is a creature of action. To stretch stories out to the length of a series — or indeed a novel — you need to string the big guy along because as soon as he has a target he attacks it head-on (which, to be honest, is part of the thrill). In season one, the run time was filled out with flashbacks to Reacher’s army brat childhood. Here we...

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