With most of the pieces on the board for 2017, there is almost one guarantee in the books. No show this year will be as weirdly incredible, funny, or harder to explain to your friends than “Comrade Detective.” The series, released by Amazon and A24, is a melding of personalities so big, it’ll make your heart explode. The concept of the show is almost difficult enough to explain. That said, the series will undeniably make you yearn for “Miami Vice,” “MacGuyver” and “Tango and Cash” all at once.
The show is portrayed as a propaganda series created by the communist government of Romania to ward off capitalism at the height of the Cold War. The series follows two detectives, one from the city and one from the country, as they investigate a shared partner’s murder. The propaganda film was recently discovered and restored by one Channing Tatum, who introduces the series with Jon Ronson.
All this setup is, of course, a false pretense. The series is directed by Rhys Thomas (“Documentary Now”) and was shot on location using Romanian actors. The footage was then brought back to America and dubbed over by an all-star cast. In all seriousness, there is almost certainly no cast more high profile than the one assembled here. Tatum headlines the series with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Chloë Sevigny, Jake Johnson, and Nick Offerman as prominent side characters. Daniel Craig, Mahershala Ali, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger and more sneak in for an episode here and there. Again, the collection of talent here is undeniable.
They are lewd and unforgiving as a cast, but the juxtaposition with Cold War imagery is simply hilarious enough on its own. With an incredible script to work from and plenty of talented improv performers, “Comrade Detective” is never short on jokes. The actual production value is extremely high, and the action scenes are incredible. Over the season, there are deaths that will make Quentin Tarantino jealous he didn’t think of them first. It is over the top bloody but finds ways to earn most of the violence. There is random killing played for humor, but often, there are catalysts that justify it.
Shows this ridiculous rarely come around, but even rarer is the show that finds its way to work. Perhaps most of the credit goes to the incredible work from the Romanian cast, who play the action straight. Florin Piersic Jr. and Corneliu Ulici are great as Gregor and Iosif, our protagonists. Both give stellar action star performances and their excitement to be on screen is palpable. They feel at home in the period setting and embody their roles. There is little doubt that Piersic steals the show over and over, but Ulici is no slouch. The two together have a chemistry that transcends language, and is perfectly supplemented by Tatum and Gordon-Levitt’s dialogue.
Perhaps what truly justifies the show’s existence is the team’s ability to not overstretch it. Episodes range from 35 to 45 minutes. If the show had gone 10 episodes, it’s possible the joke would get old. At 6, this is the perfect serving size. Considering the entire series only has a runtime of 4 hours, it’s well worth your time. This is the equivalent of a well-made 90-minute movie starring all your favorite comedians. What’s not to like?
At the end of the day “Comrade Detective” will not be for everyone. It fits as a niche series for TV fanatics, but can instantly be appealing to action junkies as well. Finding its way past the original gag might be the biggest hold up for some, but once you’re in, it is hard to stop. By melding the self-serious nature of a propaganda film with the comedy of Tatum and Gordon-Levitt, the series is perfect for comedy nerds. Fingers crossed enough people find this show because there could be many more stories to tell for this hilarious new series.