McMafia

TITLE: McMafia
GENRE: … suspense? thriller? Inscrutable hodgepodge of boring?
STARRING: David Strathairn, James Norton

PRODUCTION COMPANY/COUNTRY: BBC One & AMC
YEAR: 2017
RATING: One of these 🛏 because you’re gonna wanna catch a lot of these 💤 if you watch McMafia.

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? If you insist, AMC and the new subscription channel, AMC Premier

Here’s a good tip for this BBC/AMC co-production: skip it. For serious, don’t even bother. McMafia is slow-moving, but not a slow burn.

It’s leading man, James Norton…what to say about James? “Wooden” is a recurring theme in reviews of his McMafia performance. I hesitate to call it a performance but I know it is because I’ve seen him be an exceptionally creepy and annoying psychopath in the crime drama Happy Valley (watch season one). He’s won awards for that turn and also nabbed himself a BAFTA Award for play a smoldering holy man/detective in Grantchester. But I’m not sure what he’s doing in McMafia besides clearly waiting for his next line like they were hard to memorize.

I’m a banker not a gangster.

James Norton put himself to sleep with his performance in McMafia. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT WAKE HIM.

The plot, as it were: a British-raised, rich son of some dodgy Russian folk tries to avoid the traps of his criminal family but will inevitably get mixed up with some wronguns. “Inevitably” comes in the first episode when his parents and beloved uncle are simultaneously home invaded. That’s about as exciting as it got for me. And my biggest takeaway was to make sure your panic room button functions properly. Nothing like a panic room that you can’t get into while gangsters start cutting throats on your pretty parquette floors!

Judge for yourself. The American trailer has a lot more voiceover exposition, though it’s pretty much exactly the same as the British version. I think they wanted to play up the Russians-as-evil aspect for our benefit since the Russians rigged our last election and put a mentally ill megalomaniac in the White House. Oops. Joke’s on us.

I blame the attempt to translate a non-fiction book about the Russian mafia into an eight episode drama. Who does that? Why not just make a doc, BBC One? We know you’ve got factual skills. Better the devil you know.

AMC owns a little under half of BBC America and co-productions like Humans and Thirteen worked. But these forays into “prestige drama” that air on AMC during not-Walking Dead seasons with McMafia and The Night Manager?

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