'Big Dogs' Review: Manny Perez only saving grace in Amazon Prime's dull and exhausting crime drama
While the idea of drugs and ruthless gangsters seems intriguing, even if it has been done-to-death a million times before, the show loses track of the threads, and you realize that you have 8 episodes to sit through
Dystopian and rather alternate realities are quite a rage among viewers for the mere fact that they seem quite probable at this point. Writers and filmmakers have expounded on this trend with fresh variations to this old premise, and most of the time it has not been disappointing. In 'The Plot Against America', we saw a different-yet-not-so-different United States -- a world where fascism runs wild. In 'The Man In The High Castle', we were witness to a world where the outcome of the Second World War was different than what we remember. The idea behind these stories was to show that we weren't entirely far from this grim future. In fact, we might be in spitting distance of it. In short, alternate realities, dystopian futures, are something to watch out for.
And so, Amazon Prime's 'Big Dogs', at first sight, seemed to be promising. Based on the books by Adam Dunn, the story shows a corrupt and broken America. Law and order are on the verge of a breakdown, there is a sense of perpetual disease and death in the air and there is sheer debauchery in the form of nightclubs. The storyline is: smooth-talking Renny (Micheál Richardson), who manages to sleep with a woman at every corner he turns, is under pressure to up his game at moving drugs for his boss Reza (Tony Naumovski), who just wants to be the reigning crime lord in the city. Detective Sixto Santiago (Manny Perez) and his rather mute partner More (Michael Rabe) have to crack down on this illicit drug trade before their own boss can spew more venom at them. While the idea of drugs and ruthless gangsters seems intriguing, even if it has been done-to-death a million times before, the show loses track of the threads, and you realize that you have eight episodes to sit through.
Despite its interesting premise, the show soon becomes a congealed mass of confusion. To emphasize the sheer debauchery of night-clubs, there is a graphic sex scene every time one blinks and if you blink twice, you might even get to see a threesome. Women serve no purpose in this show, practically, except to strip within five seconds of appearing, and the camera will uncomfortably zoom into their bodies, because why not? Why should women have a role in a story like this, anyway? (This is pure sarcasm, just in case there is a doubt). The showrunners try really hard though with them. For instance, during a riot, Santiago rescues a woman and asks her straight, "Are you raped?" She says no. "Are you assaulted?" "No." Rather than having any gravitas, this scene is done so shoddily, they might as well have left it out. There are desperate traces to address racism, and about how white people don't face penalties, but everyone else does. It's all glossed over in much muscle-flexing and cursing. The cursing is loud, emphatic, and coarse to drive it through the audience's skulls that this is a difficult time being portrayed on screen. After a point, even the swearing stops getting creative, because it becomes a matter of rearranging words and spinning them around -- similar to when you want to copy your friend's homework but don't want to make it look the same.
Regarding the acting skills, Perez tries hard to sink his teeth into Santiago, and he is the better part of the show. Brett Cullen as the tough and aggressive boss just begins to pound on your brain after a bit. Micheál Richardson as Renny seems to be disinterested in the show, when he's having rough sex or when he's getting beaten into a pulp, which is sad because the actor has shown his acting chops for sure. If you're up for a crime drama that is as productive as a taxi in reverse, this one's for you. It really would have been worth a watch if it was just about big dogs. Have fun.