Dwight “The General” Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) has spent the past 25 years in a New York prison for a crime he didn’t commit. I mean, sure, he’s committed plenty of crimes. Just not that one specifically. But it was either him or the Don’s son, and being loyal to a fault, he did the time. Now he’s out and ready to get back to work. Unfortunately, both his family and The Family have moved on. Instead of being welcomed back with the respect a made man and father deserves, he’s exiled to Tulsa to expand operations. And when there’s very little crime to organize, well, you make some.
Tulsa King (rated TV-MA for violence and profanity and streaming on Paramount+) is Stallone’s first foray into television. Always game for a little self-deprecation, Stallone has fun playing the twice-out-of-water fish. Not that he’s high (except when meeting with the local pot farmers) and dry (an angry woman “baptizes” him with holy water for blasphemy and gross vulgarity). During a driving exam, which is interrupted by an assisination attempt and high-speed chase, the administrator mentions his parents vacationed in New York in the 1980s. “The heyday,” Dwight says.
“My parents were mugged by a guy with a samurai sword.”
“It’s not for everybody,” Dwight concedes.
Perhaps because his daughter won’t speak to him, Dwight takes Tyson (Jay Will) under his wing, hiring the young man as his driver and personal assistant. When the owner of a local car dealership assumes Tyson is a criminal because he’s black, Dwight beats the man with his own phone. The old gangster lives by a code of honor, which only further sets him at odds with the modern world. Speaking of his daughter, Dwight says, “A father protects the people he cares for.” He failed her and makes bloody amends.
Soon the Tulsa operation is in conflict with the local biker gang, The Black Macadams, and Dwight starts a personal war back home. We can see that he corrupts everyone around him, yet we also see a glimmer of something good. Stallone has made a career of playing deeply flawed men who go through incredible trials and find redemption. One wonders if we’ll see that again here. There are hints.
After all, if the thief on the cross could find some last-minute forgiveness, who’s to say that Dwight is beyond hope? Or anyone else? (Paramount+)