The success of Tulsa King demonstrates that Sylvester Stallone still has what it takes to dominate our screens with his effortless swagger!
You’ve got to hand it to Sylvester Stallone, the guy knows a winning formula when he sees one. After sharing so many wonderful characters with the world throughout his decorated career, the screen legend is back in Tulsa King. A series that represents his first foray into small-screen entertainment. But does it hold up to his big-screen adventures?
Hell yes, it does. Tulsa King is an absolute triumph. And although the premise is far from original, the series has thrust Stallone back into the limelight and reasserted him as the true Hollywood icon he is.
After his “iconic” spells as both Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, Stallone is back as Dwight Manfredi – a former mafia capo released from prison after 25 years. For anyone else, life would be tough for an ex-con back on the streets and looking to rebuild his life. But Manfredi, aptly known as “The General” amongst his peers has an ace up his sleeve. The mobster who bankrolled his glory days is still on hand to pave the road in gold. But with the world having evolved much in the twenty-five years since his incarceration, Manfredi is tasked with leaving New York and cornering the drug trade in, of all places – Tulsa, Oklahoma! Hardly the drug capital of the United States or the place to launch a drug enterprise.
But eager to reclaim the debts he feels he is due, Manfredi agrees and heads to Tulsa with nothing but the shirt on his back and a score to settle. But within hours of landing, he muscles in on the local and LEGAL marijuana trade and begins to build his new empire. And it doesn’t take long before he accumulates a long line of admirers, enemies, and reluctant business partners. It’s amazing what a little good old-fashioned extortion can bring!
The premise sounds simplistic, but the series is far more layered than the synopsis gives it credit for. In fact, from start to finish, the show is compelling, poignant, and surprisingly funny, which came as a surprise. But carrying the series forwards is a standout performance from a star many had written off as being past his prime. And the praise doesn’t just fall on Stallone because the entire cast is pretty solid. Tatiana Zappardino turns in a wonderful performance as Dwight’s estranged daughter Tina, Andrea Savage brings an understated and tortured quality to ATF agent Stacy Beale, and Martin Starr adds some hefty support as the increasingly vital Bodhi.
But the wonderful line-up of talent doesn’t end there because the supporting cast is equally in top form here. Max Casella shines a light on life after the mob as Armand “Manny” Truisi, and Dana Delany offers a standout performance as Margaret Devereaux. And with glittering performances from the rest of the supporting cast, Tulsa King builds a wonderful foundation on which to tell its story.
The story itself is more powerful than the stereotypical ex-mafia plot normally allows. At the heart of the story is Manfredi’s quest to reconcile with his estranged daughter – who was forced to abandon him the moment he crossed the threshold of his prison cell. Not for her benefit, but his. And it is his quest to break through the walls of her resentment that drives Manfredi forwards. As all good shows do, the plots intertwine and become symbiotic until they reach their inevitable conclusion. All the while leaving a few loose threads for the recently announced second season to tie up. Which, on the strength of the first season has a high standard to uphold. But that is half of the fun.
BACK IN BUSINESS
By now it should be abundantly clear that Sylvester Stallone is back on top where he belongs. After a few missteps here and there, he has found another larger-than-life character that is easy to love and hard to ignore. And that is a triumph in itself. Like Rocky Balboa, Dwight Manfredi is a complicated, layered, and tortured anti-hero we can all root for. And if the second season can live up to the hype, we can expect another sensational piece of television when it hits Paramount+ later down the line.
In the meantime, head over to Paramount+ and explore the wonderful first season in all its glory. There you will find Stallone suited, booted, and harder-edged than you’ve seen him for some time. But with the same exuberant swaggering charm that brought him to the dance. All the while boasting the tormented qualities of a father desperate to be reunited with his daughter. And that is television gold.
Welcome home Sly, it’s been a long time coming!
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!