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A look at A&E's latest made-for-television movie.

TV Review: Kings of South Beach

Let’s face it, not everything that airs on television is the most wonderful thing ever created. Like anything else, some television is great, some is good, and some is downright awful. Things don’t just fall into these categories however; some things on TV can be described as mildly entertaining at best. Entering into this undistinguished category is A&E’s latest made-for-television movie, Kings of South Beach.

This original production stars Donnie Wahlberg and Jason Gedrick. Based on a true story, Gedrick plays Chris Troiano, a nightclub owner with a shady past. Wahlberg is Andy Burnett, Gedrick’s new, mysterious best friend, and security guard. Appearing in minor roles in the film are Ricardo Chavira (of Desperate Housewives fame) as a mid- to low-level mob guy and Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl) as Troiano’s sister.  

The Feds and local police are also operating some sort of sting operation in the background (apparently based on the assumption that no one this successful can be on the up-and-up). What exactly they think is happening at the club is unclear, but they’re sure it isn’t good. However, the viewer, for the first half of the movie, isn’t given much insight into what the Feds are up to; but they are setting up some sort of operation. 

Actually, that’s one of the main problems of the movie: for the first third to half of it, the viewer is told very little of what’s going on and is supposed to be drawn into the mystery of it all. This all falls apart due to the fact that so much of the mystery is clear, and the rest is wholly uninteresting. The Feds have a guy “on the inside” of the goings-on. The identity of the undercover guy is allegedly a mystery (albeit quite an obvious one), and is revealed about halfway through the film. I won’t give it away here, but it’s readily apparent about five minutes into the picture. 

Why it should be written so that the undercover man is a mystery until halfway through the film is actually one of the most intriguing things about the picture. As this is based on a true story, anyone familiar with the events will know immediately, anyone not familiar with the events can easily look it up and find out, and anyone that chooses not to do that will, as stated above, figure it out before the movie makes it explicit anyway.

Kings of South Beach takes place in the mid-‘90s, just as the area of South Beach was beginning to explode in popularity. This made-for works very hard to place itself into this time period, from music, to clothes, to rollerblades. Some of these elements work better than others. For instance, Kings actually shows Andrew Cunanan shooting Gianni Versace. Neither Versace nor Cunanan have any part in the plot of the story whatsoever. They didn’t appear before the shooting, and Cunanan doesn’t appear after. The scene is simply there, and then weakly tied back to the story when an officer asks Troiano about Cunanan, who, the officer claims, visited Troiano’s club, and Versace, who was at Troiano’s the night before getting shot. It’s a weak, silly excuse to further place the movie at a specific moment in time, add a famous name to the mix, and get to show one more murder. 

What then is right with the movie? Wahlberg gives a good performance as Burnett, and I’ve always found Jason Gedrick to be charismatic on screen. Additionally, it’s able to generate just enough excitement through car chases, beatings, fights, slightly off-color language, and jiggles to make for a passable evening (the February Sweep is, after all, over). 

Kings of South Beach premieres on A&E Monday, March 12, at 9PM.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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