On a cold February night in 1993, Chris Ludwigsen sat behind the wheel of what would become the getaway car involved in the robbery and homicide of Mrs. Judy Shemtov, a Staten Island housewife. In late 2006, the same man – who took his mother’s maiden name of Paciello – was reportedly seen partying in Los Angeles. What happened in the years in between is the subject of the original feature film Kings of South Beach (airs on A & E – Monday, March 12, 2007 – 9:00 EST).
Written by Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino) and directed by Tim Hunter (Carnivale, Cold Case, Homicide: Life on the Street), Kings of South Beach is the story of Paciello’s influence on the 1990s glory years of Miami’s nightclub scene. The KoSB script renames him as Chris Troiano (Jason Gedrick), and covers not only his involvement in revitalizing South Beach’s nightlife but also his connection with drugs, money laundering, and the mob.
Troiano’s closest confidantes are his business partner Olivia (Nadine Velazquez of My Name is Earl), and a newer friend, club bouncer Andy Burnett (Donnie Wahlberg). Every night is a party at their wildly popular club, Liquid, peopled with club kids, drug kids, and Miami glitterati.
The acting is mostly top notch; Gedrick (Promised Land, Backdraft, EZ Streets, Boomtown), is believable as the charming but confrontational Troiano and Wahlberg (Boomtown, The Sixth Sense, Band of Brothers), as the right hand man Burnett, is a good mix of tense street smart muscle. Velazquez and the rest of the cast are fine as well.
The story itself is an interesting one, but it’s telling is jeopardized by uneven writing and direction. The club scenes seem too forced; a scene where actors portraying Madonna and Donatella and Gianni Versace are introduced and depicted as intimates of Chris and Olivia doesn’t really ring true. A shame, as the real life Olivia was Ingrid Casares, the party girl daughter of a wealthy Cuban family, and romantically linked with Madonna. Her story alone is quite compelling.
Another scene with two Russian thugs showing up at Chris’s office promised some excitement; one thug shatters a framed publicity write-up on the floor, pours booze on it, lights it on fire, and then pisses on the flames. However, the stilted dialogue and accents of the Russians dilute the tension as much as the urine dilutes the fire.
And to show the contradictory lifestyles between Andy and Chris early in their relationship, scenes that alternated between Chris and some gorgeous babe frolicking in his pool and Andy watching TV in his rundown apartment come off as silly instead of sexy. Also, frequent girl-girl smooching was not as hot as it could have been. The mediocre soundtrack doesn’t help either.
It seems as if this has been a tough story to get to the screen; other projects on this case have begun, such as the adaptation of Michele McPhee’s book, Mob over Miami, into the film Unmade Man. This offering is currently listed on IMDb.com as in pre-production and stars Antonio Sabato Jr. in the lead role, with Vincent Pastore along for the ride.
Another question mark is King of Clubs, said to star Mario Lopez as Paciello, with Tom Sizemore and John C. McGinley. This may be the project that reported in Variety, falling apart because of legal and financial reasons.
Initially Paciello was remanded to his mother’s home on Staten Island under house arrest. He was also reported as being in a Federal Witness Protection program, and was said to have spent the last eight years in a federal prison. And who knows where he will end up; rumors have him staying in LA to become an actor, or moving on to Las Vegas.
I don’t think Vegas needs any more Kings.Powered by Sidelines