I caught the first episode of Tulsa King last night, Stallone’s new series on Panorama+ and it was great. I was expecting it to be good because I’ve always thought Stallone was an underappreciated film guy. He’s not in Clint Eastwood’s class as a filmmaker, but he’s pretty damn good. Almost a class of his own.
But of course, when we think of Sly, we think of Rambo, and we all haz feelpinions about Rambo. You might have feelpinions about Rocky, too, but I’d argue that in terms of mass culture Rambo was more important.
Anyway, Rocky-n-Rambo completely obliterates any memories of Stallone’s work on features like Cop Land, a gnarly little crime flick about small-town corruption in which Sly chunked up to play a sad, fat, half-deaf, but fundamentally honest New Jersey sheriff going up against bad cops Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta.
It’s a great, low-budget morality play.
Probably lower budget than the pilot of Tulsa King.
There’s some hella strong thematic convergences, though. In Tulsa King, Dwight Manfredi is a former made-guy, outta the joint after 25 years of keeping his goddamn mouth shut for the boss. Like his beta-cuck Sherrif in Copland, Stallone’s Manfredi is at heart a man of honour surrounded by knaves. He’s flawed, lost and something of an endangered species.
He’s also dangerous, of course. Really dangerous to the innocent gumbies of midwestern Gumbytown, but even worse to the underworld figures he will doubtless clash with over the rest of the series.
I read a couple of shitty reviews of this series, which seemed to be peeved that it didn’t have the Shakespearean nuance of Breaking Bad. But here’s a thing, it’s not Breaking Bad. It’s a completely different story about a completely different character. Its morality is simple and the story arcs run true. Also, it is really fucking funny in a way that the best crime shows often are.
I was looking for an enjoyable, diverting hour or so of teev. I suspect I’m now on the hook for this whole fuckin’ show.
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