10 years later, the real Jack Reacher finally stands up. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

My friends, I want to apologize for my absence this past week. In the ten years I’ve been writing here in TALC, I think I’ve only gone MIA two or three times. I was just as disappointed in myself this time as I was those few other times. I feel like I stood you up. I am sorry.

But let’s now talk Jack Reacher, shall we?

Amazon Prime Video came out with an original show called Reacher, and with its eponymous protagonist being my all-time favorite male fictional character, I have some things to say.

The mythical figure of a lone wanderer passing through town, getting embroiled in whatever shitshow’s going down, and rendering justice before moving on, is a timeless one. With his creation of Jack Reacher, author Lee Child fleshed out such a knight-errant character – one who’s armed with a military background – in whose shadow the evilest of villains cower. There’s more to this shadow than size, though, and the first screen-version of Reacher didn’t have it. Any of it. Tom Cruise was wrong for the role in every conceivable way. Tom Cruise will be right for the role of Reacher the day crunchy, bitter, watery celery can satisfy your intense craving for rich, sweet, dense Black Forest Cake, and that day would be Never, my friends. Never.

And so Reacher’s showrunners got to work on this streaming series under considerable pressure: In addition to the usual challenges for the usual reasons, they had to placate the thousands of Reacher fans, including Yours Truly, who lamented the film’s unfortunate casting choice.

With this challenge built into the project, the team went into the making of Reacher with guns blazing and fists flying. They threw their entire arsenal into it, with Mr. Child closely involved every step of the way. The result? A Jack Reacher show with heart. Sterling, gargantuan heart. As Reacher famously “says nothing,” Child and the production team held back nothing. This time, they were able to freely and relentlessly accentuate Reacher’s physical and behavioral presence, as described in the novels. Because of actor Alan Ritchson’s physique and stature, the writers were able to emphasize how Reacher stands as a massive Goliath of a human. If Child felt that he had to atone for the casting of Tom Cruise – and I believe that he did, from what I’ve seen in interviews – he certainly accomplished that and then some with Reacher v. 2.0.

I’d suspected that the show would exceed my expectations when I discovered who’d been cast to play Reacher, but I couldn’t have known exactly how ideal Alan Ritchson would be. As already asserted, there’s more to Reacher than his size. There’s also attitude and demeanor and body language (including facial expressions) and just general Reacher energy all rolled up into the package, and Ritchson embodies the whole damn thing. The casting team could not have done better.

Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher.
And that would be him again on the right.

It’s not necessary to have read the books to appreciate this series, but I do know that for we hardcore Reacher fans, this show is a profound treat. By the end of the first episode, all of the boxes had been checked, starting with “Reacher said nothing.”

Reacher said nothing.
Reacher has no middle initial.
Reacher has a minimalist and slightly acerbic and biting sense of humor.
Reacher carries a folding toothbrush and a passport and not much else.
Reacher buys a set of clothes and throws his old threads into the trash.
Reacher sits in a diner and orders coffee and pie.
Reacher loves dogs and has little to zero tolerance for their mistreatment and neglect.
Reacher schools the local authorities on the details of their own investigation, casually and authoritatively up-managing along the way.
Reacher sniffs out the person on the local force who has a military background and recruits him accordingly.

Reacher is structured to follow the story of one novel per season, so each season is a new adventure in a fresh setting. Season 1 follows the story in Killing Floor almost perfectly – so perfectly, it’s like a video version of an audiobook. I found the acting and directing to be impressive, and the fight-scene choreography brings to life Reacher’s signature style of punishment delivery, which was enjoyable to watch (especially the fight scene at the end of episode 6, I believe). The writing is clean and peppered with a few well-timed, well-placed anachronisms, with pop culture references (Harry Potter, Settlers of Catan), and tech culture (smartphones/texting, GPS) to bring the character into today’s world, speaking to the timelessness of Reacher’s fabled existence.

Reacher is a triumph. What a come-back! 10 years later, Jack Reacher rose from the ashes of one screen to spread his wings on another, renewed and resplendent. It was worth the wait.

The ideal Reacher. (Who could be the new Jack Reacher?)

If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, you’ve probably already heard the news. If you’re not, let me tell you what recently made me jump up and down with proverbial glee: there will be no additional Jack Reacher movies. Instead, we’ll get something better. At some point in the future, we’re going to get a JACK REACHER STREAMING SERIES and TOM CRUISE WILL NOT BE CAST AS REACHER! Because Jack Reacher author Lee Child loves us, and he loves Reacher, and he wants to see screen-Reacher appear as his actual Reacher self as much as we do, I’m thinking. Child has so carefully crafted Reacher and fleshed him out over the years that the Tom-Cruise-as-Reacher news felt like a plunge into an alternate universe the majority of us would never want to visit. And I never did visit. I’m sure I’m not the only Reacher fan who avoided that universe.

I refrained from watching Reacher on the big screen, but now I can look forward to watching him on the little screen, which is the better screen, in my opinion. The little screen is today’s big screen. We’re not in a Golden Age of television… we’re in a Platinum Age of television. Jack Reacher would fit right into our existing catalog of excellent streaming series heroes, and not in Tom Cruise’s shoes.

I first read this announcement on Twitter, and then my friend directed my attention to an article about it (linked above, but here it is again in case you missed it). That was about a month ago, and I’m still ecstatic about it.

Of course, the biggest buzz-worthy aspect of this news is the speculation: who could take on the role of Reacher in the upcoming series? Lee Child would like to hear our thoughts. Child is open to suggestions, he says. (Reportedly.)

Lee Child will probably never see this post, so my chiming in here is for my own amusement more than anything.

My thoughts and opinions:

–The ideal Reacher wouldn’t appear to be congenial in his countenance. Reacher doesn’t go around looking like Mr. Nice Guy. He goes around looking menacing, even though he is a nice guy. He’s nice until you annoy him or otherwise get on his bad side, that is.

–The ideal Reacher wouldn’t have a pretty face with fine bone structure and/or features arranged in a way that makes him conventionally attractive. Lee Child has actually described him as “ugly.” If the new Reacher actor has stock good looks, he should at least have the sort of looks that could be readily roughened/uglied-up in the hair/makeup department.

–Rather than walking into a room and drawing attention with his good looks, the ideal Reacher would exude a low-frequency charisma particularly (maybe only) detectable by women.

–The ideal Reacher would also bring into a room an air of unadulterated badassery. Any glibness on his part would come across as less than amusing, even if his words are amusing (and they often are).

–The ideal Reacher actor would be over six feet tall at the least, and he would weigh somewhere close to (at least) 200 lbs.

I wouldn’t insist that the actor stand at 6′, 5″ or weigh 220 lbs, because I don’t think that would be necessary. He should meet a minimal height requirement of, say, six feet, and he should either be built or have a physique that’s capable of being built. From there, shoe lifts and physical training could make up any deficit, or at least get the actor close to Reacher’s physical description.

–The ideal Reacher actor would have on his resume action-flick experience and a skill set that goes with it, or he should be trainable in this respect. The actor needs to be convincing as a guy who could crush a person’s throat with one hand. He should also know his way around firearms, as Reacher is an ex-MP (military cop) superior with firearms… and he uses them often.

–The ideal Reacher actor would be faceted enough to play a ruthless vigilante who’s theoretically a sociopath, but unquestionably a good guy. Reacher would seem like an easy character to play with his many one-liners and moments of “saying nothing,” but he’s far from one-dimensional. Lee Child created a complex character in Reacher. An ideal Reacher actor would have the ability to transmit Reacher’s character nuances.

With all of the above in mind, I’m going to throw in the names of two well-known actors who may seem unlikely. I’ve seen these guys in action, and their actions suggest Reacher-potential.

  • Hugh Jackman
  • Bradley Cooper

———

1). The case for Bradley Cooper:

I’ll start with Cooper, because I can already hear exclamations of disbelief.

Bradley Cooper may seem too good-looking at first glance, but in my opinion, his prettiness is borderline and nothing the hair/makeup department couldn’t fix. Cooper could be easily unsmoothed over into a guy who looks rugged, weathered, and age-appropriate for Reacher, who I imagine to be anywhere from mid-forties to early-fifties. (Cooper is 43.) The hair people would only have to bleach his hair blond. Cooper already has Reacher’s notable blue eyes.

Any doubts that such a transformation is possible, consider what hair/makeup people did to Charlize Theron for her role in Monster:

 

Left: Charlize Theron. Right: Also Charlize Theron. (“Monster,” 2003)

 

(Charlize also gained weight for the role, of course.)

Bradley Cooper is 6′, 1″. All he would need is three-inch lifts in his shoes.

There’s evidence out there that Cooper’s physique takes well to bulking-up gym regimens.

 

Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper” (2014)

 

(And how about that stone-cold stare?)

His biceps aren’t as big as basketballs, but in my opinion, he looks like he could f*ck someone up fairly efficiently.

Cooper is a talented actor who could bring out Reacher’s character nuances.

Cooper is fluent in French. Reacher’s mother was French. Presumably, Reacher speaks enough French to get by, if he isn’t fluent. Cooper would need no language or accent training for this. Script-writers would be able to deepen the character and add intrigue with snippets of back-story featuring Reacher’s mother. There’s at least one instance in the Reacher canon that has Reacher visiting his mother in Paris.

(The video below is long; just click anywhere in it and listen for a minute.)

 

 

Cooper has a solid action hero credential in his starring role in American Sniper. His performance in the lead role of Chris Kyle earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and it’s actually what brought him to mind when I thought of who might play Reacher.

 

 

Brief synopsis of American Sniper from IMDB: “Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”

Reacher is ex-Army and possesses legendary shooting skills untouchable by mere mortals.

————————-

2). The case for Hugh Jackman:

I have less to say about Hugh Jackman; he’s pretty convincing all on his own, I think. Let’s gloss over him, starting with the fact that Jackman possesses naturally rugged, off-beat looks.

Moving on, although Jackman is Australian, his American accent is perfect. He also has a deeper voice that we know (if we’ve seen any of the Wolverine movies) can be growly.

And Jackman is 6′, 2″. A set of mere two-inch lifts in his shoes would do it.

And Jackman is built and can easily become more built. His biceps aren’t as large as basketballs, either, but keep the bulk and lose just a little bit of the Wolverine-lean? I’d see Reacher in there, for sure.

 

“Wolverine” Hugh Jackman.

 

Hugh Jackman “Wolverine” fight scene (Wolverine vs. Shingen)

 

Hugh Jackman’s fight scenes are vicious, even though we haven’t seen him throw punches as much as we’ve seen him slash at people with bladed fingertips.

There’s no doubt that Jackman can look scary. He can be scary. He’s terribly talented. I think he’d make a great Reacher.

Thank you, Mr. Child, for offering us a Reacher streaming series and an opportunity to make suggestions for the role of Reacher!

 

A Fan’s Perspective: Will the Real Jack Reacher Please Stand Up?

Bad Guy: *touches his gun*

Reacher: Hang on a second while I get a chair so that I may stand up on it and head-butt you.

If this scene exists in any of Lee Child’s 17 Jack Reacher novels, then congratulations, Jack Reacher film team… you’ve done well to cast Tom Cruise as Reacher.

The movie Jack Reacher opens today. I’m in France, where it won’t open for another week or so, but that’s irrelevant because I’m not going to go see it.

Before you dismiss me as a whiner harping on the height issue, let me just say that I know it’s hard for you movie-goers uninitiated to the Jack Reacher novels to comprehend the far-ranging negative reaction to this casting. I mean, with all of this brou-ha-ha over the casting, there must be something more to it, wouldn’t you think? So, I’m going to ask you this question to make it easier to understand (or at least to appreciate) the disbelief:

If you were looking forward to the making of a movie about the Vikings, the legendary drifting explorers and warriors of the north seas, would you want to see Tom Cruise cast in the lead Viking role?

Think about it. I mean, try to envision it. If you don’t know enough about the Vikings to form a mental image of Cruise as a Viking, then do some reading. Familiarize yourself. Get to know the subject matter. Get to know the Vikings.

Now tell me what you think.

Is Tom Cruise Viking material?

No? Okay, what if he was 6’ 5” tall and weighed 250 lbs – would he be Viking material then?

Still no? Why not? I thought the concern was his size, since that’s the obvious issue, but okay, let’s go further and imagine growing out and bleaching Tom Cruise’s perfectly styled, clean-cut, dark brown hair into a haphazard, dirty-blond un-style. Also, we’ll fit him with colored contacts to give him the icy blue eyes of the typical Viking.

Does that do it? Alright, then how about this: We’ll drag Tom Cruise face-down on a gravel path so his skin roughens up appropriately (I know what you were thinking… he’s “too pretty” to be convincing as a weather-worn, battle-scarred Viking who was never good-looking to begin with), and we’ll also give him a voice box transplant to replace his higher-pitched, bookish and slightly nasally voice with the deeper, quiet menace of the Viking’s voice – or at least what you’d imagine a Viking’s voice would sound like. Potentially thunderous, when needed, but not often needed. No need to talk much when you walk into a room and people instantly react to you because you’re, well, a Viking.

There!

What? After all that modification, you’re still saying “Tom Cruise is not a Viking?” That makes no sense at all, people. This is TOM CRUISE. He’s a great actor with years of experience making mega-millions at the box-office, guaranteed to deliver a cinematic hit! Oh, ye of no faith. Tom Cruise may be small, but he has massive star power. He may not be Mr. Universe, but he can carry this movie and the whole franchise, to boot. Give Cruise and the movie a chance. You might be surprised. Do I need to remind you that he’s not just any movie star, but an action movie star? TOM CRUISE IS A VIKING.

Right?

Now, replace “Viking” with “Reacher” in all of the above, and this is exactly where you arrive. At best, you’re still going to be scratching your head, thinking about it. No amount of “Give him a chance… size isn’t everything” is going to change the fact that Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher, because even if we do forget about his size, there’s still a lot wrong with Cruise in this role.

Here’s an example of a well-known Reacherism: Mobility. Reacher walks a lot. Walking is his favorite mode of transportation. He walks almost as much as he drinks coffee, and that’s a lot. Second on his list, he takes the bus. Third, he hitch-hikes. And fourth, he takes the train.

Although Reacher can and does appropriate and drive whatever vehicle suits his needs at any given moment, it’s been firmly established that Reacher is not a driver. He dislikes driving, and he’s never had a civilian driver’s license. This is why Reacher fans know immediately that something is off when the first sound in the movie trailer is the gunning of a V-8 engine with the supposition that Reacher is behind the wheel. From that second on, the Reacher fan is thinking, “Wait! I thought this was a movie about Jack Reacher….?” Jack Reacher is not a driver.

So why do we have a movie called “Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise agilely maneuvering a sports car around using every flashy show-off trick in his action-flick auto repertoire? Looks like Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise the Action Hero under the name of Jack Reacher. OH SHIT – Jack Reacher has been hijacked!!

That was the first part of my multi-tiered reaction to the movie trailer.

I found the trailer by accident. It was a thrilling little moment of discovery: YES! There’s a Jack Reacher movie!! I eagerly clicked to open the trailer, and I was instantly confused. I couldn’t find Reacher. All I saw was Tom Cruise. Once I understood that Cruise was supposed to be Reacher, I couldn’t believe it and kept looking around for the real Jack Reacher. (“Will the real Jack Reacher please stand up?” HA.) I remember thinking, “Okay, uhh… I see Tom Cruise acting tough and trying to sound threatening with his little round voice and looking sharp with his perfect hair and preppy outfit, but where is Reacher? OH… SHIT TOM CRUISE IS SUPPOSED TO BE JACK REACHER??” The trailer wound down to an end, and the final assault materialized before my eyes: the movie title “JACK REACHER” glowing in blue letters on the screen. Not only does Tom Cruise play Jack Reacher, but the film itself is called Jack Reacher. I went on Facebook and dashed out something that ended with *headdesk.* It felt like my fingers were throwing up.

Jack Reacher has a certain combat style, the central criteria being a massive physical form. In his case, size is not mere window-dressing, decorative and changeable according to whim. If it was, then sure, festoon Tom Cruise with a bunch of ribbons and bows and call it a day. In book after book, Jack Reacher the Pain Inflictor (if I may call him that – I like the way it rhymes, it’s corny and it sums him up) incapacitates and destroys his opponents using moves that would be physically impossible for a shorter-than-average man to perform.

In the first Jack Reacher book I ever read, Reacher “snaps forward from the waist” and head-butts two guys, one after the other, laying them out flat. The guys are described as “each about six-two and around two hundred or two hundred and ten pounds. They had long knotted arms and big hands. Work boots on their feet.” (The Affair) Hours later, after they regained consciousness, “Both of them had noses like spoiled eggplants. Both of them had two black eyes. Both of them had crusted blood on their lips.”

Sorry, Tom Cruise. You are not going to convince anyone that you can damage two big goons in this manner. Even with elevator risers in your shoes, you are not going to stand there and head-butt two guys who are 7-8 inches taller than you. That arrogant smirk on your face isn’t going to add to your credibility, either. The Tom Cruise smirk doesn’t call to mind the expression of quizzical bemusement that’s another Reacherism. It’s not ominous. There’s no gravity behind it. It’s just… the Tom Cruise smirk.

In the end, this casting is simply unfair. It’s asking too much of a Reacher fan to try to reconcile the profile of Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise. We’re not a tough crowd to please. We’re not looking for the “perfect” Jack Reacher actor, because we know that there’s no such thing. It’s just that as loyal fans, we would feel respected if an honest attempt had been made to cast an actor who could be more believable as Reacher, an actor who could better embody the essence of and maybe even slightly resemble the Reacher that has been constructed for us on the written page. I think there’s something to be said for a good effort to preserve the integrity of an artistic creation.

Unfortunately, no honest attempt at an appropriate casting took place here. After years of expressed interest in Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise bought the rights to the book (One Shot) and went ahead and produced it and starred in it. Author Lee Child, who at one point said that Tom Cruise was “way too short to play Reacher,” has since tap-danced all over the table justifying (yes, he does have to justify it – he owes it to his baffled million+ fan base, without whom he would have nothing) his approval with flimsy assertions like “No one else could do it” (really?) and “Reacher is a metaphor” (simultaneously evading the issue and elevating his work to a higher level of prose than the pulp fiction that it actually is, excellent though it may be).

Of course we Reacher fans are feeling ripped off getting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. (Or, shall I say, Tom Cruise instead of Jack Reacher.) How great would it have been to be able to anticipate this film, as so many fiction fans do when their favorite books are being adapted to film? Harry Potter fans got an amazing cast for their literary obsession. Hunger Games fans’ heroine Katniss was done justice by the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean works, I think; in his elaborate stage make-up, he is Jack Sparrow when you look at him, not Johnny Depp. But Jack Reacher? All anyone will see when they look there is Tom Cruise. No attempt was made to adapt his appearance to fit that of Reacher. It’s Mr. Clean-Cut Risky Business-As-Usual Cruise showing up to play the part of a hulking, Viking-like character. It’s a colossal disappointment for Reacher fans. An actor who would actually make sense in the role could’ve taken it and run with it all the way through the franchise. Jack Reacher would have his own face – not Tom Cruise’s.

So that’s why I’m not going to buy a ticket when Jack Reacher gets to France. I have no desire to watch Tom Cruise play himself in another Tom Cruise action movie, when what I want is to watch an actor playing Reacher in a Jack Reacher movie.

If I want to see Tom Cruise, I’ll rent Tropic Thunder again, or Jerry Maguire. See? I’m not a Tom Cruise hater. I’m just a person who loves Jack Reacher.