Judge Clark Douglas wants to see this show remade with Basil Fawlty as the central character.
Miami 1959. Gangster's Paradise.
"Things are about to get very ugly."
Facts of the Case
As the second season of Magic City begins, things aren't looking good for suave hotelier Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen). He's currently imprisoned, he's regretting getting into business with the savage Ben Diamond (Danny Huston, Children of Men) and his relationship with his wife (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) is more fragile than ever. It isn't long before Ike manages to make bail, but he's got quite a challenge ahead of him if he's going to secure the future of the Miramar Playa hotel and find a way to get Diamond off his back. Meanwhile, young Stevie Evans (Steven Strait, Sky High) yearns to play a bigger role in the management of the hotel, while his brother Danny (Christian Cooke, Cemetery Junction) finds himself increasingly repulsed by Ike's slippery lifestyle.
The network bosses at Starz had a lot of confidence in Magic City from the beginning. Despite the fact that the show was exceptionally expensive to produce, they gave it a two-season order upfront and eagerly waited for the sizzling ratings, critical acclaim and various awards to start pouring in. Alas, it wasn't the success they had hoped for. Ratings were mediocre, the critical reaction was mixed and the award nominations were few and far between (just an Emmy nod for the main title sequence and a Golden Globe nomination for Danny Huston's supporting turn). Starz waited until the second season was well underway to pull the plug, meaning that showrunner Mitch Glazer and his team wouldn't have the opportunity to hastily assemble a concluding episode.
The second season of Magic City isn't particularly better or worse than the first—in fact, it's nearly identical: the first half is sluggish and predictable, while the second half really kicks into gear and delivers some entertaining television. Better that than the other way around, I suppose, though it's a little frustrating that the show couldn't find a way to build on the considerable momentum of the first-season finale. Part of the problem is that Ike Evans doesn't really seem to evolve as a protagonist no matter what the show throws at him. Morgan is charismatic and likable in the part (he often comes across as a slightly more sympathetic Don Draper), but the character is too enigmatic for us to feel deeply invested in the outcome of his quest. Still, there's just enough good stuff in the season's back half to make you regret that there won't be a third batch of episodes.
In the end, the most memorable thing about the show isn't its central character, its involving-but-typical crime show plotting or its sultry Florida atmosphere. Years from now, when all other memories of Magic City have faded, the one thing I'm going to remember with utter clarity is Danny Huston's Ben Diamond. Over the course of two seasons, he delivered one of the most genuinely frightening villains on a television: a man who has endless depths of violent sexual rage lurking beneath that crocodile grin. Diamond's strange, cruel relationship with his wife Lily (an effectively terrified Jessica Marais, Packed to the Rafters) is the show's most chilling and compelling plot strand, and Huston is masterful whether he's playing the chuckling reptile the public knows or the feral beast he becomes behind closed doors. The series concludes with a reflective shot of Ike, but it's the last shot of Diamond that will linger in your mind. It's the greatest performance of Huston's career to date, and it's a shame that so few people will see it.
Magic City: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) offers a very strong 1080p/1.78:1 transfer that enables the viewer to appreciate the many visual pleasures the show offers. The setting remains one of the show's stronger points, and it's hard not to feel that you know the Miramar Playa inside and out by the time you've seen a few episodes. Detail is terrific throughout, and the darker scenes offer strong shading and deep blacks. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track is also quite good, though the show doesn't offer too much in the way of complex sound design. A few stray scenes early on sound just a bit tinny, but otherwise the mix is rich and satisfying. The flavorful music comes through with strength, too. Supplements are a disappointment: you get a whole bonus disc devoted to special features, but it only contains five featurettes that run a paltry 20 minutes combined: "The Gamble for Havana," "The Criminal Element," "Tales from the Underbelly," "Magic City Style" and "The Music That Makes Magic."
Well, Magic City, it was fun while it lasted. I can't say I'm heartbroken to see you go, but I can't say I'm happy about it, either. You were better than people said you were, but not as good as you wanted to be. Thanks for two seasons of decent television.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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