Written by Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas), Kings of South Beach is a look at the world of former Miami club promoter Chris Troiano (Jason Gedrick) and his best friend Andy Burnett (Donnie Wahlberg). Together they put on some of the best nightclubs from the 1990s and had such celebrities as Madonna and the Versaces frequently them. However, Chris and Andy have secrets. Chris is involved in some pretty bad dealings (he's facing bankruptcy and the ire of the mafia) and Andy is actually an undercover cop who is playing Chis in the hopes of bringing him down. All of the action plays out against pulsating nightclubs, sexy women, and a lifestyle of luxury that many only dream about. These guys helped create the atmosphere that people like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan currently party (and make headlines) in.
While obviously made for much less than such Pileggi written films as Goodfellas and Casino, Kings of South Beach works best when it focuses on the relationship between our main characters. Taking a long time to eventually bring Troiano down, his people on the police force think that Burnett might be enjoying the lifestyle that he's been allowed to live. Eventually, he does his job but not before having many anxious moments with his "best friend."
Kings of South Beach is a well made film but it doesn't resonate like the kinds of films it wants to be. This is one of those mobster movies where too much is predictable, and there are simply too many questions. Troiano, it seems, is a smart enough guy that he would question Burnett's loyalty much sooner than he does. In fact, it doesn't seem like he even thinks about it until the movie's final 20 minutes. For the most part it is Burnett who seems like he's afraid that his cover is about to be blown.
Both Jason Gedrick and Donnie Wahlberg give very strong performances. I liked that Wahlberg didn't play up the idea of a police officer going through a moral crisis too much. He is conflicted but I never felt that this story delved into that too much. This is a good thing too because Wahlberg plays Burnett as a guy who is on top of things. Even when it seems like he is sunk, he always seems to be one step away ahead of the the person he is going after. Jason Gedrick is quite good here. As of late he has played tough guy roles. The most recent ones that come to memory are Falcone and EZ Streets (and those aren't that recent). He isn't scary in the role of Chris Troiano, he's just able to bluff his way out of any situation. He also seems to have the ability to believe his own BS and thus so does everyone around him; mostly.
While not the best undercover cop/mafia movie I have ever seen, Kings of South Beach is certainly worth your time if you are into these kinds of stories. As a huge fan of the work of Tim Hunter (Over the Edge), I was excited to see that he was back making films about kids on the wrong side of the law again. Okay, the kids may have grown up, their problems may have gotten bigger, but everything about Kings of South Beach seems like children reveling in the games they play.
Kings of South Beach will have it's World Premiere Monday, March 12 at 9pm ET/PT.