Jessica Marais is game in a so-far-thankless role on Magic City.
Show of the week: Magic City, Soho, 9.30pm
IT'S an altogether different Jessica Marais we see in this new American drama series; in fact, it's Jessica Marais in the altogether. But more of that later.
Magic City seeks to combine the period aesthetics of Mad Men with the brass-knuckled gangsterism of The Sopranos. It aims to do this in the setting of a swanky hotel on the Miami beachfront in 1959, and with gangsters who are Jewish, rather than Italian. It works on the style front: the fictional Miramar Playa Hotel and its habitues look a treat. Unfortunately, the script for this first episode, written by series creator Mitch Glazer, is a shocker, full of holes and groan-inducingly cliched lines.
Our antihero is dapper hotelier Isaac ''Ike'' Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a man of some mystery who has nightmares about a veritable kelp forest of people who have been sent to sleep with the fishes (whether by him or his mobster associates is not clear). Ike is married to a young and glamorous second wife (Olga Kurylenko), about whom we also get few clues.
The other main players are hurriedly painted in crude strokes. Ike has two sons, Stevie (Steven Strait), an arrogant lothario; and Danny (Christian Cooke), a sweet boy in love with a doe-eyed maid. Gangster Ben ''The Butcher'' Diamond (Danny Huston) is an explosively violent type who takes sadistic pleasure in making the viewer sit through the fable of the frog and the scorpion yet again. His wife, Lily (Marais), is a femme fatale with va-va-voom and a thing for dangerous liaisons.
It's New Year's Eve and Ike has a problem. Frank Sinatra will be playing to a packed house, but the union picket out front will prevent a vital booze delivery from getting through. Cursing himself, no doubt, for being so inexplicably incompetent in keeping the bar stocked, Ike seeks help from The Butcher.
Poolside at The Butcher's mansion, Ike gets quite an eyeful of the naked Lily, who is up for a bit of a full-frontal chat, and we get an inkling that she might enjoy turning men into putty. The Butcher quickly establishes his psycho credentials, and it's clear that Ike will pay dearly for assistance he wouldn't have needed had he been smart enough to make a quick trip to the cash-and-carry in the first place.
Marais is game in a so-far-thankless role, and neither she nor anyone else gets any help from the woeful script.
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