Jon Bernthal has already delivered the year’s best TV performance in April’s We Own This City, and he continues his stellar 2022 with American Gigolo, an adaptation-cum-expansion of Paul Schrader’s 1980 neo-noir that justifies its existence courtesy of its headliner’s lead turn. As Julian Kaye, Bernthal not only wears the Armani suits and drives the classic convertible that were Richard Gere’s iconic accoutrements, but he makes them his own, even as he embodies a character with far more inner turmoil—and heart—than his predecessor’s for-hire prostitute. With a suave sexual confidence that masks a wounded soul, Bernthal is a magnetic man of the night, navigating an underworld that’s at once familiar and foreign, and decorated not only by shimmering lights but by blood that keeps figuratively (and literally) winding up on his hands.
Developed by Ray Donovan vet David Hollander, American Gigolo (Sept. 11, Showtime) embraces its roots—replete with Blondie’s “Call Me” as its credit song and spiritual anthem—while reimagining Julian in more complex terms. When we first meet the protagonist, he’s in shocked, panicked tears during a chat with Detective Sunday (Rosie O’Donnell), who explains to him that, because he’s been found in a room with a murdered client, he’s either going away for a quarter century (if he confesses) or life (if he doesn’t). During his subsequent stint behind bars, Julian transforms from a dapper playboy into a hardened, torso-tattooed man who resembles Robert De Niro’s Cape Fear baddie Max Cady more than he does Gere. That appearance, however, is deceiving, and when he’s exonerated fifteen years later—thanks to a dying killer admitting to the crime—he returns to his old California stomping grounds more guarded and jaded, if still the same fundamentally charming individual as before.
American Gigolo’s first three episodes (which were all that were provided to press) chart Julian’s acclimation back into society, which involves hooking up with his old buddy and fellow prostitute Lorenzo (Wayne Brady), who’s kept his ride and his wardrobe in mint condition during his time away, and who continues to work in the hustling game as a manager. He also crosses paths with both his prior madame Olga (Sandrine Holt) as well as her successor, Isabelle (Lizzie Brocheré), who as a child thought herself the princess to Olga’s queen, and looked forward to owning Olga’s stable of men—including, in particular, Julian. Flashbacks further elucidate Julian’s entrée into this seedy world, beginning with his mom (Melora Walters) pimping him out to fellow residents and selling him to Olga, and Olga—at her glitzy L.A. home, populated by all manner of enticing young men and women—teaching him how to dress, to speak (including in French) and, most importantly, to screw.
Source: The Daily Beast
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