61st Street Review: AMC’s South Side Drama

61st street

Bring in McCallany and Tosin Cole 61st street
photo: George Burns/AMC

The new AMC series 61st street could not be more timely or necessary if attempted. Set on Chicago’s South Side, it follows the riot that occurs when Moses Johnson (Tosin Cole), an affable high school track athlete seeking a college scholarship, is accused of murdering a police officer after he was on his Stumbled into a cloud of dust on the way home. Moses, who is not in the game, through the manipulation of the Chicago Police Department and the media, becomes something of public enemy number one to some and a manifestation of what is wrong with the police to others. It’s a story that unfolds devastatingly over and over again in reality, on streets not far from 61st Street, over and over again.

So just as a conversation starter, a work of fiction that gets people discussing what is arguably the biggest real issue of our time (and unfortunately many, many days before) and highlighting something that desperately needs a spotlight, 61st street deserves recognition. If it makes a viewer angry, disbelieving, or making them volunteer or even change their minds, the show has done its job. But – and not to ask an annoyingly basic, superfluous question, but here it goes anyway – does a great, meaningful message make great, meaningful television?

Because there are plenty of great, meaningful messages here. Take that long speech Moses’ buddy Calvin (Jayson Lee) delivered to public defender Franklin Roberts (Lovecraft country‘s Courtney B. Vance, the show’s star, who’s pretty wonderful all the time): “My way of thinking is that cops see blackness as a weapon. Being black is like, I don’t know, I might as well have a gun, you feel me? So run and fight like Moses did? This is self defense. But they don’t see it that way, or they are blind to it. But what we have to do is … make the blind see.”

It’s beautifully written dialogue that sharply announces the main theme of the show. Vance’s Franklin Roberts then looks like his emotional wind has gotten out of his sails: In the shadow of the El tracks, this young man summarized what defines his calling as a lawyer – and why he can’t quit, retirement and health , damn it, not now, not when the stakes are so high.

The “they” Calvin speaks of is the CPD. And if the show’s clear savior is Roberts (who always puts up the good fight, like when he unsuccessfully begs a cynical judge to keep a family together in his first court scene), Lt. tardelli (mind hunter‘s Holt McCallany) is his villain, all smug shadyness and basically the embodiment of police corruption.

“Police officers in America wake up and feel like we can’t do our job – or worse, we have to apologize for wearing the uniform,” he tells Officer Logan (Mark O’Brien) to his subordinates to bring it to revise his testimony of blaming Moses. The show also emphasizes this dichotomy aesthetically, Traffic-style, with everything in the police world captured in a blue sombre cold color scheme and everything in the community a gold bright warm color scheme.

Aunjanue Ellis on 61st Street

Aunjanue Ellis in 61st street
photo: George Burns/AMC

This dichotomy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Shows need someone to root for and someone to hate. And in real life, of course, very important issues need decisive attitudes; for every progress weather I gotta say which side of the fence we’re on. (That the cinematic choice is indeed quite powerful and to the point, we should note, contrasting starkly with, say, a beautiful late afternoon in the neighborhood one minute and then clinically a lieutenant’s office with a the next Flying the Blue Lives Matter flag .)

Unfortunately, whenever something very dramatic or scary or unfair or important happens (and that’s understandably quite often), the show tends to distractingly swell the score, as if to announce, “This is the moment that counts, so pay attentionIt can frankly suck audiences out of the story and undo some of the truthfulness it has painstakingly built, especially when slow motion is added to the mix.

When, at the end of a cliffhanger episode, the lieutenant and the public defender arrive at Moses’ hideout at the same time, you might ask: isn’t that too random – or even: wouldn’t a lieutenant delegate someone with a lower rating? rank to check this? Then, in a press conference about the fallen cop, Officer Logan, pregnant breaks and all, in front of a group of reporters who could be aptly described as library-calm, in a dimly lit room with basically all of his chest flash photography, nothing less.

Bentley Green and Matthew Elam on 61st Street

Bentley Green and Matthew Elam present 61st street
photo: Chuck Hodes/AMC

Luckily though 61st street broadens its scope to the problem more realistically by following Martha Roberts, Franklin’s wife (a great Aunjanue Ellis), a fast-rising politician who joins the “Defund the Police” movement, agitating locals over lack of school resources and having a legitimacy dispute with a journalist and Moses’ brother Joshua (Bentley Green) who starts throwing himself into the game.

It’s really unfair to put the weight of a city and its problems on one show. Also, if the amazing 2020 docuseries about Chicago, city ​​so realShe still had blind spots after almost six hours, nothing will happen. This city and this problem are just too complicated. But we’d like to think that without the heavy-handed style, with more subtlety, more trust in the audience, even more gray areas, 61st street could have really really connect. On the other hand, now may not be the time for subtlety.

https://www.avclub.com/61st-street-review-amc-courtney-b-vance-1848761050 61st Street Review: AMC’s South Side Drama

Andrew Schnitker

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