The Deuce premieres September 10, 9pm on HBO.
Producer David Simon, responsible for such classics as The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, is back! He’s recruited James Franco and a stellar cast to cover the darker side of the 1970s and 80s New York City porn and prostitution industry.
The Deuce definitely has enough going on, boasting a whole bunch of characters with their own subplots. The early episodes keep a decent balance between the characters so none stand out above the others. The pilot establishes the world nicely, and fully recreates the atmosphere of 70s NYC. From the set designs, to the costumes, to the score, it all felt real.
The characters include a pair of twin brothers named Vincent and Frankie Martino (both James Franco). Vincent has chosen to live an honorable life, working multiple jobs in order to support his kids and his flaky wife Andrea (Zoe Kazan). On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frankie is a degenerate gambler with growing mob debts. Frankie’s debts have found their way to Vincent, adding even more pressure to his already difficult life.
While the show does not approach the porn industry right away, it establishes the sex industry and its influence on the community. A large chunk of screen time follows a group of street walkers named Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Ashley (Jamie Neumann), Darlene (Dominique Fishback), and Lori (Emily Meade), along with a group of pimps named C.C. (Gary Carr), Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and Rodney (Method Man).
The acting was the best part of the episode. Franco and Gyllenhaal are obviously the biggest names, yet they aren’t the only focus. All the characters get their due, but balanced storytelling means nobody stands out.
Franco was good at playing dual roles though there wasn’t much of a difference between the brothers performance wise. The only way to tell them apart was by how they were dressed (white for Vincent and black for Frankie). Gyllenhaal might have a career best with this prestige program, as she was the best of the bunch. Her character Candy is very compelling to watch, acting tough around others in order to hide her loneliness.
At the very least, tune in on Sunday and see HBO lay the groundwork for what could become quite a compelling series.
I give The Deuce a B+.