A collective wave of internet followers clung to Jon Bernthal's sexy '80s crime drama American Gigolo, followed by a tenderer, more human performance in Netflix's Marvel series Daredevil and The Punisher. Sadly, such moments are few and far between.
The small-screen American Gigolo (directed by Ray Donovan's David Hollander) fast-forwards to the aftermath of Julian Kaye's wrongful imprisonment for murder. The once-renowned LA gigolo has been serving a sentence for a crime he didn't commit, while also acquiring an impressive number of tattoos while behind bars.
After previous series openers dedicated to his intense and forceful monologues, like HBO's We Own This City from earlier this year, Bernthal becomes wetly sobbing, and that contrasts with Detective Jean Sunday (Rosie O'Donnell), who refuses to accept his innocence or ignorance, but who manages to exonerate Julian completely. His vaunted charm is only revealed in the show's first meandering episodes that were directed for critics, with an extreme reliance on flashbacks and non-line
Julian Bernthal is a far cry from the materialistic, self-absorbed individual who has been humbled by his circumstances and, once freed, seeks for a new purpose. These aren't the cases at all, as any of the series' credits are simply whispers of the past, with any future reunion between them becoming impossible due to existing difficulties and the fact that their relationship was initially forbidden.
Gigolo, a character study about a male gigolo, wants to explore not just the overarching mystery of who may have framed Julian for murder all those years ago, but also at least one other uninteresting B-plot involving Michelle's teenage son and her husband, the latter of whom has wealth that may have gotten them mixed up with the wrong people. Only so many times will one be able to witness Bernthal walking along the beach wearing a tortured expression, intercut with yet more
Julian seems to be quite content to return to his former role as a gigolo from the start, but he seems to be resentful to uncover the truth about his framing. Both have their own hard-forged perspectives on sex work from their own lived experiences, and make erratically different arguments for why Julian should be promoted to returning to being an escort full-time. Yet even Sunday stumbles into more evidence than she ever expected, rather than discovering another piece accidentally.
At this point, it's difficult to say whether Gigolo's initial narrative flaws will persist throughout the remainder of the season, or if they were primarily the result of a certain creative voice at the helm. Despite allegations of on-set misconduct, the show's premise on its own is intriguing, and Bernthal obviously has the chops to give it the nuanced performance it deserves.
Showtime's American Gigolo will air on September 9th.