Writers seldom receive the kind of love shown Nicholas Pileggi on this movie, billed as "From the writer of 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino,'" and doubtless meant to dovetail with A&E's "The Sopranos" reruns. Still, as mob tales go, "Kings of South Beach" is bada-bland, a poorly paced reunion of "Boomtown" stars Donnie D. Wahlberg and Jason Gedrick with a plot skimpier than Miami nightclub attire. Essentially shot like an extended musicvideo, throw in wasted cameos by Nadine Velazquez, "Desperate Housewives'" Ricardo A. Chavira and Steven Bauer ("Scarface!" Woo-hoo!), and there's a touch of humidity, but no heat.
Writers seldom receive the kind of love shown Nicholas Pileggi on this movie, billed as “From the writer of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino,'” and doubtless meant to dovetail with A&E’s “The Sopranos” reruns. Still, as mob tales go, “Kings of South Beach” is bada-bland, a poorly paced reunion of “Boomtown” stars Donnie D. Wahlberg and Jason Gedrick with a plot skimpier than Miami nightclub attire. Essentially shot like an extended musicvideo, throw in wasted cameos by Nadine Velazquez, “Desperate Housewives'” Ricardo A. Chavira and Steven Bauer (“Scarface!” Woo-hoo!), and there’s a touch of humidity, but no heat.
Based on a true story, “South Beach” has solid credentials, with cop-turned-producer Sonny Grosso joining Pileggi and director Tim Hunter behind the scenes. As constructed, though, it’s a slog to the movie’s predictable twist, leading to the downfall of Miami club owner Chris Troiano (Gedrick), the 1990s maestro of velvet-rope chic who drew stars such as Madonna (whose name is prominently dropped within the film) to his door.
“Kings” centers on Troiano and another New York transplant who goes to work for him, Andy (Wahlberg), while authorities circle the club, which is under surveillance from the outset. In fact, the story seems to pick up in the middle, with no sense of history in terms of how Troiano — a thug who shoots steroids and isn’t above roughing up patrons — developed his rep, established his lucrative operation or made his name.
Instead, the first half of the movie wallows in extended scenes of relatively tame debauchery around the club set to a synthesized beat, whether it’s Velazquez’s character making out with other women or Troiano cavorting with a bimbo in the pool. Given the surprising imbalance of story versus substance in Pileggi’s script, even “Miami Vice” looks positively substantial and thought-provoking by comparison.
Eventually, the police work kicks in, exposing Troiano’s ties to a money-laundering mobster played by Bauer and placing an undercover operative at risk, before culminating in one of the most uninspired, anticlimactic cinematic chase sequences in recent memory.
Even if one generously banishes references to Pileggi’s work with Martin Scorsese, it all feels wan, tired and painfully predictable, with scant dimension for either Gedrick or Wahlberg to mine beyond the tough-guy sneers.
Put it together, and “Kings” is no day at the beach, but it does provide a good demonstration of how easily a TV movie can go south.