Tulsa King is an immensely entertaining gangster drama that attempts to operate in a believable world

by Gordon Shelly

At 76-years-old, Sylvester Stallone can still find a way to reinvent himself as a (mostly) believable tough guy and action hero.

Going into Tulsa King, I expected very little. In fact, I had intentionally avoided it. The premise seems preposterous and completely unbelievable. However, after four episodes and mostly positive word of mouth, I needed to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

Tulsa King is immensely entertaining and, for the most part, creates a believable scenario for Sly to present himself as an aged tough guy, Mafia captain.

The series starts with Dwight Manfredi (Stallone) being released from a 25-year prison sentence. He had many opportunities to tun on his Mafia brethren, but chose not to do so. During this time, he has aged out of the East Coast mob scene, and is given Tulsa, Oklahoma as a reward – a fresh start and a new way to earn for the Mafia.

This isn’t exactly The Sopranos and it doesn’t exactly live within the realm of reality, but it is entertaining. The writers make every effort to make it as believable as possible, writing in plenty of fish out of water instances, man-out-of time circumstances, and aged-tough-guy-living-in-a-young-thug’s world confrontations.

The first four episodes do some world building as Manfredi establishes his new way of making money, connects with a fresh set of allies, brings in some old acquaintances, and finds a love interest who lives in the world in between.

And, naturally, there are the bad guys. In season one, it appears to be a renegade biker game that deals arms and drugs. The first four episodes are light on the violence but it is a looming shadow that promises an explosion down the road.

We will see where it goes. Many of these shows become so engulfed in violence that they quickly leave the realm of reality and enter a fantasy world. I recall one episode of Sons of Anarchy where there was an all out gang war with hand grenades and a massive body count and no authorities! I’d like to see Tulsa King continue its attempt to operate in a world of reality.

Manfredi is a self-aware criminal who is likeable and sympathetic. While regretting the life he has chosen, he makes no attempts to right the wrongs or leave the criminal world behind.

Gordon’s Grade: B