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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sneaky Pete: True Win

Graham Yost, one of the main creative forces shaping Amazon's Sneaky Pete, was and is also executive producer of two other superb series, The Americans and Justify. But Sneaky Pete has the most in common, and is almost a kind of mirror image, of another pathbreaking series created by another GY - Greg Yaitanes - Banshee.

Both tell the story of an ex-con who adopts someone else's identity, needs to fool a lot of people, and must match wits with a vicious, highly intelligent, racketeering villain who holds forth from New York City.  Both must deal with expected and unexpected near revelations of their true identity, and cleverly fend them off.   Sneaky Pete is a little lighter than the unremittingly brutal Banshee, but Sneaky Pete has plenty of dark and violent moments, too.

Unlike "Lucas Hood" in Banshee, however,  Marius Josipovic is not only conning the world about being "Pete," but running cons in everything he does.   These cons start and end the season, and give Sneaky Pete something crucially in common with other great con narratives on the big screen, ranging from the The Sting (mentioned in Sneaky Pete) to Ocean's 11.

And speaking of Ocean's 11 (and Ocean's Eleven), Sneaky Pete has an impressive array of star power, with Giovanni Ribisi in the lead role, Bryan Cranston as the arch villain, and Peter Gerety, Margo Martindale, and even Ben Vereen and Malcolm-Jamal Warner in supporting parts.  All do memorable jobs.  Not as well-known Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, and Libe Barer also put in good performances.

As was the case with Banshee, credibility is strained by the extent to which the imposter can get away with it for so long.  And Sneaky Pete has the problem of needing to fool the real Pete's grandparents and cousins - wouldn't they realize something was different in his eyes, which would be pretty much the same for someone in his thirties, not seen since he was a boy at least 11+ years old?  "Lucas Hood" in Banshee didn't have to confront anyone in the real Hood family, except his son, who realized the deception immediately.

But it's easy enough to suspend your disbelief in Sneaky Pete.  The action is quick, the surprises jolting, and the series clocks in as another true win for streaming television.

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