Geschrieben am 1. Mai 2024 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag Mai 2024

Nick Kolakowski: Smoking Gun (23) – »Sugar«

‘Sugar’: Not the Neo-Noir Revival We Need

Roughly a month ago—time gets a little slippery when you have a newborn—I was flicking through my streaming options on my iPad, intent on finding something to see me through the predawn hours. I stumbled upon “Sugar,” a new series on Apple TV+ starring the ever-reliable Colin Farrell as a private detective in Los Angeles.

I was intrigued, of course. How often does a major studio (or a tech company playacting as a major studio) spend a substantial amount of money on a noir television series? The initial episodes leaned heavily into the standard tropes: Farrell in a good suit, pursuing a missing girl down the mean streets of Los Angeles at the request of a rich old man, encountering a rogues’ gallery of weirdos and toughs along the way. If that wasn’t enough to earn the attention of any detective-fiction fan, this sleuth also drove a vintage Chevy Corvette, brandished the same pistol that Glenn Ford used in Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat” (the latter given to him as a gift by his mysterious handler), and loved older noir films.

All the noir allusions are a little too on the nose, which was okay with me—it was reminiscent of hearing a contemporary band doing a great cover of a classic song. But as the series progressed, I found myself more than a little disconcerted by the building allusions to something larger, stranger. With every new episode came more hints that Farrell’s character wasn’t quite human, that he might be something supernatural. Meanwhile, the reviewers and fans online suggest we’re due for a huge science-fiction twist of some sort by the time the series concludes in early May.

I find that disappointing, if only because it suggests television and movie executives don’t think unadulterated noir will sell to a larger audience. Even “True Detective,” which spent its first three seasons remixing crime-fiction themes and ideas, tiptoed toward the supernatural in its most recent edition. But I also understand those executives’ fear: you create something that plays like an updated version of “The Big Sleep,” and you risk attracting only a small band of classic-movie freaks, the kind of people who quote Hammett or Chandler or Thompson at parties and expect everyone in the room to instantly get what they mean.

This could change, of course. In the 1990s, following the starburst of hype around Tarantino’s early crime movies, we had a burst of neo-noir films that evolved the genre in some interesting ways; I’m thinking of “Red Rock West,” “The Last Seduction,” even some long-forgotten turkeys like “U-Turn” and “Mulholland Falls.” If we want a similar resurgence, we’ll need another neo-noir film or series that achieves blockbuster numbers—if nothing else, studio executives love chasing a hit. At the current moment, however, it seems like studios are reluctant to sign off on anything that doesn’t feature superheroes or some kind of sci-fi or fantasy concept. I always hope for more noir, but I fear we’re stuck to something of a niche.

** **

Nick Kolakowski is the author of „Maxine Unleashes Doomsday“ and „Boise Longpig Hunting Club“ as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. His noir fiction has appeared in Tough, ThugLit, Mystery Tribune, Plots With Guns, and various anthologies. His „Payback is Forever“ (Shotgun Honey 2022) is inspired clearly by the novels of Richard Stark. Our review here (in German). – See also his Hell of a Mess. A Love & Bullets Hookup.

Nick Kolakowski, geboren 1980, aufgewachsen in Washington. D.C., hat Geschichte in Chicago studiert. Er schreibt Romane, Kurzgeschichten, Lyrik und Essays, viele davon über Crime Fiction und verwandte Themen. Seine Texte erscheinen u. a. in der Washington Post, in Shotgun Honey, North American Review, The Evergreen Review, Rust & Months. Kolakowski lebt in New York City. Eine Besprechung des von Parker inspirierten „Payback is Forever“ in unseren Bloody Chops.

Bei Suhrkamp auf Deutsch: Love & Bullets.
His essays with us

His column „Smoking Gun“ with us: 
Moral Redemption in Noir: Is It Possible?
What Makes Jack Reacher Tick?
‘True Detective: Night Country’ Tries to Make the Familiar into Something New
Is David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ a Comedy? 
Rewatching ‘Drive’: Gosling as Noir’s Apex Predator
Elmore Leonard  – City Primeval
Cormac McCarthy Used Crime Fiction’s Tropes to Make Masterpieces
Parker: Donald Westlake’s One Amazing Trick
Cosby, Winslow, Pruitt: Three Heavy-Hitting Thillers for Summer
Weed-Based Crime Thrillers are Going Up in Smoke
‘The Last of Us’: Crime in the Post-Apocalypse 
What Made “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out” So Popular?
Jordan Harper’s One-Two Punch of Crime Fiction Deserves a Wide Audience
‘True Detective’ Season 2: Was It Better Than We All Thought?
From ‘Touch of Evil’ to ‘True Detective,’ Long Shots are Crime Films’ Secret Weapon
Michael Mann, again: What Michael Mann Teaches Us About Enduring Crime Fiction
„Heat 2“ – How Do You Craft a Sequel to a Masterpiece?
4 Ways Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Novel Stands Out From the Film.
On „Heat“: Manhunter Takes Down Thief: How Michael Mann’s Early Career Led to ‘Heat’
The Most Honest Nihilism – on „The Way of the Gun“
No, Time to Die – The latest James Bond movie digs into the fatalism at the iconic spy’s core.
Cormac McCarthy’s Overlooked Masterpiece? – „The Councelor“
Nightmare Alley“ – How Guillermo del Toro’s Film Alters a Masterpiece Noir Novel
David Cronenberg – The Carnal Crime of “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”
With Parker, Donald E. Westlake Pulled Off Crime Fiction’s Most Spectacular Magic Trick
Guy Ritchie’s Return to Crime Films is Worth Watching

Tags : , ,