SNEAKY PETE Review

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When a hyped series fails to live up to expectation, I yearn to visit the alternate dimension where the project never moved past the planning phase. Because while SNEAKY PETE was in production, we got to experience the joy of anticipating a spicy Amazon original from the master of both the dramatic and comedic dad, Bryan Cranston. While we would have been sad to hear of the project’s cancellation, I’m certain that pain would be lesser than that of watching ten episodes of mediocre television from people who you know can do better. Greatness bubbles just below the surface for SNEAKY PETE, but persistent intellectualist narcissism and a constant void of substantial commentary makes this series a surprisingly frustrating experience.

Marius Josipovic (Giovani Ribisi) has spent two years in prison listening to his cellmate Pete Murphy blather on endlessly about his loving extended family. When Marius gets released, he finds himself hunted by underground casino-owning gangster Vince (Bryan Cranston), who he pissed off in a failed poker con. Vince demands that Marius pay him 100 grand as an apology, but Marius evades Vince by retreating to the farm Pete grew up on and telling Pete’s family that he, Marius, is Pete. Conveniently, most of Pete’s family hasn’t seen Pete since he was a young boy, somewhat reducing the considerable strain SNEAKY PETE puts on my suspension of disbelief.

I can appreciate a crazy concept, particularly those self-aware enough to be clever. But SNEAKY PETE isn’t trying to be wacky. SNEAKY PETE tries to convince us that it has a lot to say about how people think, and unfortunately they don’t make a super convincing case. Every scene of intricate emotional manipulation loses impact due to the fact that we know the show is written. Almost every con Marius runs works pretty flawlessly, and the ones that don’t are fixed via improvisations that, again, lose luster with the knowledge that it’s planned. Sure, we’re made to understand how relative the concept of truth is and that we often see what we want to see, but those points lie deep within a lot of self-aggrandizing, masturbatory flexing of Marius’s brain muscles. Marius’s constant intellectual flourishing reminds me of Walter White circa seasons three and four, but while BREAKING BAD contains that and a million other things, SNEAKY PETE doesn’t have much else. Most scenes only exist to evoke what could be described as the Gentleman’s Badass sensation.

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A sensation reserved for an exclusive club of Reddit-educated, neck-bearded gentlesirs

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Essentially, it’s the sensation of watching a badass decimate lesser beings with brains rather than brawn. Think action star mowing down rows of henchmen, but without the gore. The Gentleman’s Badass gets what he wants through unbelievable dexterity and charisma, no less an unrealistic ideal for male audiences than the chiseled jaws and glistening pecs found on yesteryear’s movie stars. But for some reason, these glorified smartass characters are considered more complex. No, SNEAKY PETE only casts shadows of complex characters, silhouettes that appear darker and more mysterious than they actually are.

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It’s so edgy that I nominate Coldsteel for SNEAKY PETE’s Season Two villain

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While SNEAKY PETE’s flaws make it fail as a TV series, I wouldn’t be surprised if those same flaws made it succeed as a movie. If the purpose of the show is solely to elicit the sensation of deception, then it undeniably succeeds. If nothing else, SNEAKY PETE works as advertised. The vast majority of the show focuses on Marius committing elaborate acts of “sneakiness.” Pick-pocketing, card-sharking, accent-faking, and a massive tapestry of lies that prey upon the habits and insecurities of Marius’s victims are just a sampling of the tools he employs to convince people that he’s the good guy. And if you can ignore the absurdity and the pretension, watching Marius dupe people can be pretty damn fun. If someone were to take all ten or so hours of SNEAKY PETE footage and cut together every scene of Marius pulling cons, you’d have about two hours of gold.

So, any takers?

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Dan Blomquist

Dan Blomquist is a guest contributor for Crossfader and writes about important things sometimes, but mostly about television. He believes that memes are the future and that free will is an illusion.

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