Tulsa King (United States, 2022). Creator: Taylor Sheridan. Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Andrea Savage, Martin Starr, Jay Will, Garrett Hedlund, Max Casella, Domenick Lombardozzi, Vincent Piazza. Available in: Paramount+. Our opinion: very good.
Taylor Sheridan has managed to forge a creative universe around the old genres, the western and gangster movies, born at the dawn of cinema in the heat of history and mythology. As a screenwriter in Hitman (2015) and Nothing to lose (2016), brought to the present -in various contexts such as the war against drug trafficking and the US real estate crisis- the topics of the old frontier of the West, in a modern setting where legends are dismantled or reinvented. Some of it is recovered in his best film as a director, wild wind (2017), a tense portrait of indigenous heritage in deep North America, the residue of blood and death hidden in a not always peaceful coexistence.
But Sheridan’s big leap came with television and the gestation of one of the most interesting contemporary sagas, yellowstone. Created in 2018 and with five seasons to its credit, it not only generated a legion of fans and successive epigones –1883 and the recently released 1923– but it offered an interesting update of that forgotten narrative tradition, a western based in a hostile and constantly besieged territory, which rehearses in its microcosm a fresco of the violence that crosses a nation. As an echo of that space and those traditions, Sheridan chooses the West as an enclave to situate a new portrait steeped in history and legend. A myth like Sylvester Stallone, turned into an atypical character for his career: a mafia boss who returns to claim what he lost.
Tulsa King manages to unite the figure of Stallone and all his mysticism with the harsh universe of Sheridan, in which the distance involved in reflecting on old genres and deep-rooted traditions does not exempt him from the specific use of his archetypes and iconography, a tribute that still remains. pregnant with humor does not retreat into parody. Sheridan traces the story of gangsters to its domestic origin, prior to the mystique of the 70s, and situates it on the small scale of an aging family, of miserable and envious capos, whose big criminals are sick and their gangsters are confined to anonymity. and whose true legend, the one who honored silence and purged a borrowed guilt, must awaken to this inglorious time. Stallone finds one of his best characters in recent times, fueled by his own cinematographic past with a vital and exciting presence..
Dwight Manfredi – in whose name the Italian-American heritage and local patriotism are conjured under the given name of Eisenhower – has spent the last 25 years of his life in prison. During that long absence he has lost the rhythm of the world and its dizzying evolution, he has lost contact with his daughter and his privileged place in the mafia family. When he leaves, hardened by reading Goethe and Dostoyevsky, he is banished to the city of Tulsa where he must forge a new domain and prove his disputed validity. The beginning of the story, modeled on Dwight’s voiceover, proposes both the reinvention of the gangster from below (evoking the literary accounts of the so-called “crook story”), revealing his procedures to obtain participation in a hippie’s marijuana business local, alliances with the owner of a bar and disputes with a gang of bikers and arms dealers, such as the discovery of new disciples, possible love and postponed revenge.
Sheridan makes use of the Scorsesian perspective on crime – in fact, his co-creator, Terence Winter, was a creative part of Boardwalk Empire Y Vinyl -, but it models its own territory, violent and nihilistic at times, and despite this full of genuine wisdom. Dwight will not only have to say goodbye to the world that he has left in the 90s with no time for melancholy, but also discover the threats of a new era, contained in what that neat city of Tulsa protects as ancestral heritage. The path from New York to Oklahoma, as it had already been traced in the days of the border, now means rediscovering violence in other forms, and betrayal in the same as always.
One of the great discoveries is the inclusion of Andrea Savage as Stacy Beale, an ATF agent (government agency that controls alcohol, tobacco, and possession of weapons and explosives), who maintains a casual romance with Dwight marked by their age difference. and the faction to which they belong. Savage is a remarkable comedian, creator of the brilliant I’m sorry (2017), and his character offers an acid perspective on that world of men and their quarrels, at the same time that he expresses that condition of strangeness that goes through the present, the mismatch with a time that changes rapidly and without coordinates, the tension between the demands of the social body and the shortcomings of the human condition.