TV Review: ‘Sugar’ | Moviefone

Film

Colin Farrell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Colin Farrell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Arriving on Apple TV+ with its first two episodes on Friday April 5th, ‘Sugar’ throws Colin Farrell into the search for a missing young woman, who hails from a wealthy, influential Hollywood dynasty.

The new series, which comes from Mark Protosevich, the writer of movies including ‘The Cell’ and ‘I Am Legend’, looks to juggle two mysteries at once, the driving storyline and the allied background for our main man, snappily dressed investigator John Sugar.

Related Article: Colin Farrell is a Private Investigator in the First Trailer for ‘Sugar’

Does ‘Sugar’ Bring the Sweetness?

Colin Farrell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Colin Farrell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

‘Sugar’, at least on paper, has everything going for it. You have Mark Protosevich, who has worked in movies for years and is steeped in motion picture history. Sam Catlin, whose TV resume includes the likes of ‘Preacher’ (an extremely underrated graphic novel adaptation) and a key role bringing ‘Breaking Bad’, one of the most respected small screen series in history, to life. Add in direction from the likes of ‘City of God’s Fernando Meirelles and a cast made up of award-winning actors anchored by Oscar nominee Colin Farrell and there is plenty of reason to hope.

Most, though, should prepare to have those hopes dashed. Because while ‘Sugar’ certainly has a premium TV pedigree and the backing of Apple, very little about it screams quality. Mostly, it’s a drawn-out slog relying on that most overused trope of the kidnapped young woman, whose disappearance leads to revelations about all manner of sexual malfeasance and criminal underbellies in Hollywood, which, while it is always necessary to uncover, here feels cheap and undernourished, not to mention shallow in its exploration.

Allied to that, the twin mystery of why Sugar acts the way he does, the mysterious circle of friends he’s in contact with and how it impacts those around him, is dragged out and, when revealed, is far less satisfying than its creators clearly hoped it would be.

‘Sugar’: Script and Direction

Colin Farrell and James Cromwell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

(L to R) Colin Farrell and James Cromwell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Though creator Protosevich has a lot of experience in the movie game, it doesn’t seem to translate to TV, even with the likes of Catlin serving as showrunner. ‘Sugar’ follows some very well-trodden paths through its early episodes, and also finds itself spinning its wheels as our hero digs into the reasons for young Olivia Siegel’s disappearance. Along the way, his obsession with classic movies comes into play, though the stylistic choices of splicing in moments and scenes from old movies to hammer points home quickly becomes both confusing and tiring.

And if you’re coming to this series expecting some bold new take on the TV ‘tec voice-over gambit’, look elsewhere, as most of what Sugar has to say around the world he lives in will feel stale and warmed-over if you’ve watched (or read) any amount of detective fiction.

On the directing side of things, it’s not that much better. Despite a clearly solid budget and some creative use of Los Angeles locations, there’s little to truly make this stand out. Even with a directed as stylistically and emotionally engaged as Meirelles (who handles five of the eight episodes) on board, the result suffers from a severe blandness.

‘Sugar’: Performances

Colin Farrell and Amy Ryan in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

(L to R) Colin Farrell and Amy Ryan in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

It’s on the acting front where ‘Sugar’ really approaches anything worth recommending, though a talented cast struggles with the lackluster script and entirely predictable plot turns.

Farrell is naturally charismatic, scruffy in attitude if not in dress sense, but burdened with a character whose creators seem to believe that being a classic movie buff is substitute for a real personality. There are elements of the man that work –– he’s got a strict code and struggles with his knack for dishing out violence when it’s called for, but he still doesn’t really stand out from the 7,000 other detective characters already in existence. He’s good with dogs! He drives a beautiful classic car! It all starts to feel like options picked from a rack and slipped onto him like clothes from Target (a place he would most assuredly not shop!)

And while there is something else powering his personality, it’s such a letdown once you learn the truth of the matter (trust me, many will guess it long before the revelation) that it detracts, rather than adding to the story.

Amy Ryan, a consummate professional, brings welcome warmth and life to the character of Melanie, ex-wife of film producer Bernie Siegel (Dennis Boutsikaris) and worried mother of the missing Olivia. There’s also stalwart work from James Cromwell as Siegel family patriarch Jonathan, a powerhouse film producer, but even he has little to chew on.

Elsewhere, the likes of Nate Corddry, Anna Gunn and even Kirby as Sugar’s mysterious handler/pal are let down by roles that are beneath their abilities.

‘Sugar’: Final Thoughts

Colin Farrell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Colin Farrell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding ‘Sugar’ is how a series with proven creators (particularly Catlin) and a veteran cast, funded by the deep pockets of Apple, can have gone quite so wrong. But this confused and often slow piece of bland gumshoe fiction offers little that is fresh in the genre –– and what it does employ to make it stand out, simply doesn’t work.

There is the lingering hope that a second season (set up by the end of the first) might proceed without the drag of the dull secondary mystery now that its elements have been revealed, but this may not warrant that, as its rarely compelling enough to draw and maintain a solid audience. All you’re really left with is a somewhat sour taste.

‘Sugar’ receives 5 out of 10 stars.

Kirby and Colin Farrell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

(L to R) Kirby and Colin Farrell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

What’s the story of ‘Sugar’?

Colin Farrell stars as John Sugar, an American private investigator on the heels of the mysterious disappearance of Olivia Siegel (Sydney Chandler), the beloved granddaughter of legendary Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell).

As Sugar tries to determine what happened to Olivia, he will also unearth Siegel family secrets; some very recent, others long-buried. And what is Sugar himself hiding?

Who is in ‘Sugar’?

‘Sugar’ also stars Kirby, Amy Ryan, James Cromwell, Anna Gunn, Dennis Boutsikaris, Nate Corddry, Sydney Chandler and Alex Hernandez.

Colin Farrell in 'Sugar,' premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Colin Farrell in ‘Sugar,’ premiering April 5, 2024 on Apple TV+.

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