Release Date(s)2022 (December 13, 2022)
Studio(s)Skydance Television/Amazon Studios (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
Surprising everyone who had given up on Jack Reacher after two mediocre Tom Cruise action films adapted from Lee Child’s novels, Amazon’s Reacher turned out to be the adaptation that everybody had been waiting for, fans and newcomers alike. It managed to strike a good balance of action thriller, drama, and light comedy, with a magnetic and charming leading man at its center. Turning out to be one of Amazon’s biggest streaming hits, it’s due to become a franchise unto itself, and with twenty-six novels and a short story collection (as of 2022) devoted to the character, any continued success would give its creators plenty to draw from.
Based upon Lee Child’s debut novel, Killing Floor, it’s the age old tale of a drifter wandering into a small town and immediately being pegged as the one responsible for a recent double homicide. That drifter, Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson), turns out to be a handsome, intelligent, tall, muscle-bound, ex-Military policeman. That town, Margrave, Georgia, is run by a crooked mayor, Grover Teale (Bruce McGill), with a firm but reasonable police captain, Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin), under his thumb to maintain order. Reacher is soon brought in and, learning that one of the victims was his older brother Joe, takes charge to aid the police, but on his own terms. This leads him down a rabbit hole of small town crime conspiracies and intrigue, but with a strong-willed police officer, Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald), always nearby to keep a close eye on him.
Besides the show’s effective blending of tones, Reacher also continues the tradition of the know-it-all Superman, but in this case, there’s more shade and dimension than there might seem at the start. Reacher as a character is an idealized man’s man, meaning that all of the men are either scared of him or want to be him, and all of the women want to be with him. The key difference lies within the characterization and the way that he’s portrayed by Alan Ritchson. Not only is he blessed with chiseled good looks, but his Reacher is vulnerable, charismatic, and witty. He’s always the smartest person in the room and seems to be waiting for everyone else to catch up, but he’s patient and charitable enough to do so. On the other hand, he can also be highly intimidating, simply by not saying a word, and when he’s driven to violence, it’s brutal. He never walks away from a fight without a scratch, but he deals far more damage than his enemies possibly can. Yet, even at his most violent, he’s still a human being with quirks, hang-ups, and even warmth, playing things close to the chest until he understands those around him.
The rest of the main cast is also impressive. Willa Fitzgerald as Roscoe is not merely a love interest, but a formidable ally for Reacher. As he’s accustomed to getting above or around most of the people he comes into contact with, Roscoe is like a boulder that he just can’t move. There’s a softness and susceptibility to her as well, but she’s an equal to Reacher in many ways. On the other side of the coin is Malcolm Goodwin as Finley, who’s a reluctant ally to Reacher. Their clash at the start burdens their relationship initially, but as the series continues and Reacher proves himself to be a valuable asset, Finley shows more sides of himself than simply maintaining the appearance of a stalwart and immovable authority figure. And for a show that’s all about the cliché of a stranger wandering into town and shaking things up, that’s refreshing since most authority figures in these types of stories are borderline unsympathetic and annoying.
The majority of Reacher goes for a kind of stylized realism. It’s a work of fiction, of course, but it attempts to keep its feet mostly in the real world. Occasionally, it does step over the line with moments that feel straight out of a comic book, but at those points, we’re already fully on board with the characters and we’ll buy pretty much anything we’re told. Whether the show’s creators will expand upon this in the future is unknown at this point, but what is hoped for most is that they maintain Reacher’s characterization without diluting it. It’s a terrific show, one worthy of more than a single watch, and let’s hope that the filmmakers can keep up with this kind of quality storytelling.
Reacher was captured digitally by cinematographer Ronald Plante at what was likely 6K resolution using Sony VENICE CineAlta cameras with Vantage MiniHawk, Cooke S4, and Optimo Zoom spherical lenses. It was also likely finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate, at the aspect ratio of 2.00:1. Paramount brings the first season of the show to Ultra HD graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 only. The Blu-ray release, which we also reviewed, was impressive with maxed out bit rates and lovely saturation. The UHD offers a similar, but not quite as dazzling a picture, at least for the format that it’s being presented on. As I noted in the Blu-ray review, the high quality of that presentation could only be improved in 2160p. And while there are some advantages when it comes to color and contrast, each episode offers unexpectedly low bit rates that rarely rise above 50 Mbps (between 70 and 100 would be more appropriate). Minor compression anomalies are scattered throughout, although you may need a fine-toothed comb to spot them. The color palette is graded with golden hues, giving the show’s look a slightly unnatural but still highly saturated appearance. Flesh tones aren’t always natural, but they’re not always meant to be. Strong swatches of green, red, and blue permeate various scenes in and around the town of Margrave, but there are also occasionally strong uses of purple and orange during scenes set outside in bigger cities. The HDR grade widens the gamut slightly to allow richer detail in these hues, but mostly improves shadow detail during darker scenes. This is not a poor UHD presentation by any means, but if it had been given slightly better compression, there would be no question of its quality.
Audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English and English SDH. It’s a highly active mix with frequent panning and careful placement of ambient activity. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while the score and music selection is given plenty of support. There are steady uses of LFE that put the subwoofers to work, aiding a full-bodied and aggressive surround experience. Other audio options include English Audio Description, and German and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Other subtitle options include German and French.
Reacher: Season One is a 3-Disc set that sits in a solid black amaray case, eliminating the inner sleeve of the Blu-ray which listed the contents of each disc. No slipcover is included, though the outer sleeve features identical artwork. The following episodes and extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: EPISODES 1-3
- Welcome to Margrave (53:01)
- First Dance (51:53)
- Spoonful (46:29)
DISC ONE: EPISODES 4-6
- In a Tree (45:16)
- No Apologies (47:48)
- Papier (47:40)
DISC ONE: EPISODES 7-8 & EXTRAS
- Reacher Said Nothing (40:44)
- Pie (51:28)
- Realizing Reacher (21:14)
- Novelistic (8:54)
In Realizing Reacher, the show’s creators talk about bringing the character and the show to life. Novelistic discusses the source material, how it was adapted, and why it was chosen for the first season. Participants in these featurettes include author Lee Child, actors Alan Ritchson, Willa Fitzgerald, Malcolm Goodwin, Maria Sten, Bruce McGill, Chris Webster, and executive producer Don Granger. There’s a decent variety of interviews and behind the scenes footage and stills contained within these two featurettes. They don’t go into great depth, but you get a clear sense of what a well-oiled and happy production that it was.
Paramount’s 4K Ultra HD release of the first season of Reacher doesn’t offer a substantial extras package, but the quality of the presentation is quite high, despite the low compression. It’s still much a higher quality experience than its streaming counterpart, but if you already own the Blu-ray, you may want to think twice about upgrading to 4K, especially with the high dollar price tag on it.
- Tim Salmons