Colin Farrell in Apple TV+ ‘Sugar’, a Los Angeles noir with a different touch | Trending Viral hub

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For a century of pop culture, in words and images, Los Angeles has been depicted as a seductively strange place, unlike any other place in the galaxy. Its natural disaster quotient, its excellent array of photogenic backdrops for moral decay and a wide world of sleaze, sun, secrets – all this spells camera-ready trouble in paradise.

Its strangeness was made for and by film noir. Here’s an example: the Apple TV+ offering “Sugar,” starring Colin Farrell as a mysteriously well-off private detective who specializes in missing persons cases. The slippery fish of an eight-part series from creator and head writer Mark Protosevich, the first two episodes of which will premiere on April 5, has debts all over the city: to the legendary films loved by the main character and to the infinite ability to Los Angeles for new wrinkles along the familiar. the fault lines.

There’s a big reveal at the three-quarter juncture of the story, so we’ll avoid that for a few paragraphs (no spoilers, though). We meet Farrell’s character, John Sugar, in a black-and-white Tokyo prologue, as he successfully but violently solves the kidnapping and ransom case of a yakuza’s young son. Locating the missing, he murmurs in an archetypal film noir voiceover, is “a difficult business.” But firm.”

Amy Ryan plays a Joni Mitchell-type music star caught up in a sinister mystery in "Sugar." (Jason LaVeris/Apple TV+)
Amy Ryan plays a Joni Mitchell-type music star caught up in a sinister mystery in “Sugar.” (Jason LaVeris/Apple TV+)

The rest of “Sugar” takes place primarily in color, and in Los Angeles, both largely and much, much less so. Sugar’s new case involves the apparent disappearance of 25-year-old Olivia Siegel (Sydney Chandler), tarnished Hollywood royalty. She is the daughter of film director Bernie (Dennis Boutsikaris, a casual, wry guy). Olivia’s actress mother, we are told, died in a car accident in 1998. Family scion and true legend, producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell), hires Sugar for search and rescue work, remaining classically silent. about his motives, although he is frank about his spoiled son, particularly his grandson and former child actor David (Nate Corddry).

Clearly, Sugar’s hourly rate exceeds that of the average gumshoe. When he’s in Los Angeles, he lives his monastic private life in a fancy hotel and meets up with his apparent agency boss, Ruby (played by actress Kirby, who is terrific), while cruising around town in a sleek blue Corvette. Ruby is concerned about his health and how this particular case might upset the cautious psyche of this clearly appropriated and restrained man. In between provocative fragments, the series tells us that Sugar’s sister also disappeared, once upon a time, and that he is uneasily dealing with the trauma.

The maze takes the detective to dark corners and other brutal disappearances throughout the county. Amy Ryan, who excels in the role of a Joni Mitchell-esque rock legend and former wife of Bernie Siegel, becomes Sugar’s confidant and sounding board. Creator Protosevich treats this character’s struggle with addiction and recovery seriously and effectively; Likewise, a #MeToo scandal involving the Siegel family becomes more than just a topical reference. It’s both plausible in the context of the story and very well woven into the middle episodes. Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” “The Constant Gardener”) directs five of the episodes with an eye for destabilizing composition; Veteran television director Adam Arkin handles the other three.

And now, indirectly, let’s talk about the fantastic at the end of Episode 6. While “Sugar” strategically drops his hints about the detective’s past and the nature of his organization’s broader mission, the reveal itself is crazy enough enough to throw a good percentage of viewers overboard. It’s a testament to the series’ strengths: strong, consistent performances; a nice glow and shine to the images, which almost recovers from the enormous surprise.

After watching all eight segments, I felt differently about it, more accepting I guess. Other things bothered me more: the narrative’s exhausting reliance on the depravity of girls in torture dungeons, on the one hand, and the well-motivated but nonetheless indulgent reliance on clips from dozens of famous and less familiar Old Hollywood titles, from “Sunset Boulevard”. ” to “Vertigo” and “Kiss me, mortal.” These serve as attractive but clumsy complements to Sugar’s own observations about the movies she loves and the city she barely understands.

So it is a bag that we could call mixed. But I found much of it absorbing and almost all of the acting top-notch. I bought it? Most of it? Nothing of that? Enough? Something like that, yes. If enough viewers opt for the twist, well, “Sugar’s” open ending sets up a second season easily.

“Sugar” – 3 stars (out of 4)

Rated: TV-MA (for violence, language, some nudity)

Duration: Eight episodes, approximately four and a half hours in total.

How to watch: Apple TV+

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

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