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Magic City

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Magic City (Fridays, 9pm Eastern, Starz)

A beautiful locale, an exciting time, and a fascinating theme should all add up to a very intriguing television program. Unfortunately, Magic City comes up just a bit short on the intrigue and has an I-think-I’ve-seen-this-before vibe.

This Starz effort looks stunning in its 1959 Miami setting. The story revolves around Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), owner and proprietor of a new beach front luxury hotel. Evans’ biggest problem is that to get his hotel built, he had to take on a partner, namely Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston). With a nickname like The Butcher, are there any guesses on what kind of guy Diamond is? You got it – a mobster.

In the background, Cuba is falling to a young rebel leader named Fidel Castro. Diamond’s Cuban business interests, as was all of the mafia’s Cuban interests, are under duress. Diamond has moved to Miami, looking for a way to cover his expected losses, hence his desire for a bigger piece of Evans’ hotel. Diamond does not stray far from the gangster stereotype – he is a violent, entitled killer.

Although Huston’s portrayal of Diamond is chilling and realistic, the character and storyline are unimaginative, right down to the union leader anchored to the bottom of a quarry lake. Huston dominates each scene he is in. I just wish he had better material to work with.

Morgan is fine in the lead role and is believable but again, I feel he was little meat to gnaw on. He saunters through his scene in a nice suit and the iconic fifties cigarette smoldering between his lips. Evan rushes around trying to figure out a way to escape Diamond’s domineering and threatening shadow. Evans has two grown sons and these characters have yet to find footing with any interesting storylines. Evans does have a sexy, younger wife played by Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko. Just like his sons, Kurylenko’s Vera has made no established contribution as yet.

Magic City could certainly improve as more episodes unfold. The writing has got to improve if this show has even a chance of success. Starz is a premium cable movie network, so maybe it can give the show a little more rope in hope of getting better. They need to take advantage of the characters already in place and the built-in storylines. The Mafia is a big part of this time and place but I would like to see more depth in the writing here. Please give us more than the surface story and superficial characters. The idea has merit but the execution has been poor thus far.

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