Kings of South Beach

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9-11 p.m., Monday, March 12
A&E


"Kings of South Beach" proves that we still haven't quite moved on from the sleek but shallow essence established in "Miami Vice." It's a shimmering A&E made-for-TV movie that has the kind of quality pedigree you would expect to deliver far more than it does. It's written and produced by "GoodFellas" and "Casino" scribe Nicholas Pileggi and stars Donnie Wahlberg and a buffed-up Jason Gedrick, who starred together on the late, lamented NBC cop show "Boomtown."

Unfortunately, this flick is far more interested in hot bods than an arresting story, content to do a re-enactment of the 1990s nightclub scene complete with mood lighting and soft-focus camera work. All that really interrupts the disco flow is an occasional fistfight and angry exchange. Oh Martin Scorsese, where art thou?

A true-crime tale based at least loosely on fact, the film purports to chronicle the nosedive of Chris Troiano (Gedrick), the guy who singlehandedly turned South Beach into a nightlife mecca during the '90s. He's the dude who lured the Madonnas and Versaces and Kate Mosses to frequent his establishments and thus glam up the region. Pileggi's teleplay charts Troiano's downward spiral as linked to some past problems catching up to both him and his best pal Andy Burnett (Wahlberg). Not that it's all that easy to understand the depth of their issues as they try to compete with what becomes relentless disco beat of drunken revelers and rhythm-fueled eroticism.

This is what you do when you fund yourself bogged down with a weak script: You pack the screen with sexy bodies and distracting imagery in long, flowing interludes that you hope will mask your dramatic shortcomings. Director Tim Hunter clearly got that memo, and it is to his credit that he crafts a film that flows as seamlessly as "Kings" does. It doesn't pack a powerful punch or feature characters with much depth, but it is skillful enough in packaging the trappings that it keeps your eyes well occupied. Director of photography Patrick Cady and production designer Marc Greville-Masson likewise look to have put in long hours turning the movie into something that's at least interesting to look at, if not necessary listen to.

Wahlberg and Gedrick are charismatic, solid performers who simply don't have enough to work with here, obliging them to deliver cardboard portrayals of guys who frankly aren't all that likable. Is it worth two hours of our time to see Troiano lock horns with mobsters, models and moochers? No. He's depicted as something of a flashy thug himself, so there goes any sympathy. Whom, or what, are we supposed to root for? Invariably, the arrival of the closing credits.

KINGS OF SOUTH BEACH
A&E
Grosso-Jacobson Communications Corp. and Sony Pictures Television in association with A&E network
Credits:
Executive producers: Sonny Grosso, Larry Jacobson, Clay Kahler, Van Vandegrift
Producers: Nicholas Pileggi, Kip Konwiser
Co-producer: Keith Johnson
Teleplay: Nicholas Pileggi
Director: Tim Hunter
Director of photography: Patrick Cady
Production designer: Marc Greville-Masson
Costume designer: Ana C. "Anita" Ramirez
Art director: Mailara Santana
Editor: Sunny Hodge
Composer: Rob Mounsey
Casting: Christina Avis Krauss, Zoraida Sanjurjo Lopez, Karen Torres
Cast:
Andy Burnett: Donnie Wahlberg
Chris Troiano: Jason Gedrick
Olivia Palacios: Nadine Velazquez
Manny Jones: Sean Poolman
Lt. Houlton: Frank John Hughes
Danny Hayes: Juan Pablo Gamboa
Enrique: Ricardo A. Chavira
Michelle Rose: Arianne Sommer
Carlos: Calo Rodriguez
Lt. Jim Hawke: Brian Goodman
Allie Boy: Steven Bauer
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