‘American Gigolo’ Review: A Gritty New Version of an Old Classic
It seems that in this day and age, everything has to be turned into a TV show. We are talking about the most ludicrous concepts, like knowing when something is really a cake and when it is not, to every single piece of media from the 60s and forwards getting a new adaptation as a TV show. Sometimes these new projects end up just being cash grabs to make money out of a recognizable name, but sometimes they actually have something new and powerful to say. This is a review of American Gigolo, a new TV series available on Paramount+.
American Gigolo is a drama series developed by David Hollander, based on the film of the same name directed by Paul Schrader. The film became a cult classic and made Richard Gere one of the most important movie stars of that decade. The film dealt with themes such as sexual exploitation, corruption, and trauma, and the TV adaptation takes all of that and puts it into a modern context, which means that things can go even darker.
The series stars Jon Bernthal, Gretchen Moi, Rosie O’Donnell, Lizzie Brochere, Leland Orser, and Wayne Brady. It tells the story of Julian, a very successful gigolo in the city of Los Angeles until one night he becomes involved in a murder, and is sentenced to prison for it. However, 15 years later, the true murderer confesses and Julian goes free. He finds himself trapped once again in the world he thought he had left behind.
American Gigolo is a very dark series. Especially as it doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to the depiction of minors getting involved in the sex-work business. For years, it has been said that Hollywood is a land of pedophiles, and if that is true, then there is a high demand for younger kids. The way the show deals with this subject is rather raw. This might turn some people off from the show, but it seems to be a reality that needs to be addressed instead of just being a known secret.
David Hollander serves as creator and showrunner, and there seems to be a clear vision of what the show needs to be. The series tries to recapture that Schrader vibe that has always made each of his films mood pieces more than anything. The cinematography is quite beautiful, and yet it feels very cold and distant. The visuals are used in a way that makes you feel that behind all the glamour there is something a lot darker hidden, out of sight.
Of course, the show wouldn’t be anything without the titular American Gigolo. The original film made Richard Gere a star, but this time the show has chosen to go with a different kind of man. While Richard Gere could be said to be a classically handsome man, Jon Bernthal is more of a tough guy. His features and his body are very rough and tough. He might not be considered beautiful in the classic sense, but he is quite manly, and that is enough that you can buy that women want to be with him and pay for his services.
Bernthal has a lot of range. He has proven it by working in many films over the years, but right now he has become a commodity. You know why you hired Bernthal, and it is for his charisma, manliness, and suaveness when it comes to delivering his lines. He has this forward intensity that makes you feel he can snap at you at any moment, and yet, he can also be very tender when he wants to. He is like a feral beast, and if that is what you want for your character, no one will do it better than Bernthal.
In this show, we see Bernthal passing through every single phase of his on-screen persona, and it really fits the new darker vibe of the show. Bernthal goes from charming in one scene to being completely scared in the next one. He is always believable, and he is the highlight of the show without a doubt. Earlier in the year, he also got to participate in the fantastic We Own This City and The Bear. 2022 has really been a good year for him.
The rest of the cast is equally good. Moi does a great job as this trophy wife that wants to escape her boring life, and even Brady ends up embracing the legendary Chappelle Show sketch, playing a version of him that is all kinds of shady. Each character has a scene here and there that makes them shine, and you will notice all of them very quickly. For example, Rochere will quickly become one of the most hateful villains on television as the show moves forward.
American Gigolo is a great success. It takes a classic film and, instead of just copying what came before, it transforms it into something that feels new and fresh. Sometimes the show goes to very dark places, but it never feels gratuitous. The visuals and the direction are quite solid, and the acting is superb. It is without a doubt one of the best shows on TV right now.