Advertisement

Sugar Review: Colin Farrell Delivers a Sweet Blast of Retro Sleuthing

TV Review Grade B+
TV Review Grade B+

Everything old is new again when it comes to TV detective shows. First, Natasha Lyonne did her best Columbo on Peacock’s quirky Poker Face, then Clive Owen resurrected iconic gumshoe Sam Spade on AMC’s sleek Monsieur Spade. Now Colin Farrell is taking a shot at the old-school private eye game with Apple TV+’s Sugar — and what do you know, this one works, too. A stylishly shot throwback to classic film noir with lean and mean storytelling and smart and lively dialogue, Sugar (premiering Friday, Apr. 5; I’ve seen four of the eight episodes) doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel… but it makes a pretty great wheel just the same.

Farrell stars as John Sugar, an enigmatic loner who gets hired by rich clients to find missing people. He’s a softspoken guy with a taste for old Hollywood movies, but he has a knack for tracking people down — and he’s a lethal fighter, too. (“I don’t like hurting people,” though, he notes after swiftly taking down an attacker.) Sugar is hired to find the missing granddaughter of famed movie producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell), leading him on a winding journey through the dark alleys of sun-soaked Los Angeles, with danger hiding around every corner.

More from TVLine

Apple TV Plus April 2024
Apple TV Plus April 2024

If you took out the cell phones and GPS trackers, Sugar could take place in the 1930s: Farrell’s character is like a time traveler from a bygone era, driving a vintage convertible and bringing a gentlemanly demeanor to his investigation, dressed in a suit and tie. (He even has a cute dog, on top of everything else.) The show shares his vintage tastes, too, splicing in classic film clips to accompany the story. Farrell is absolutely arresting here, tapping into his movie-star charisma with an endless supply of cool. But he also hints at a haunted side of Sugar in his world-weary narration, crippled by debilitating dizzy spells and holding a dark backstory close to his vest.

Sugar’s filmmaking is modern, though, with director Fernando Meirelles (who gave us the immortal Brazilian crime drama City of God) employing jittery camerawork, disorienting cuts and intimate close-ups that linger just a bit too long. He also gets a wealth of interesting performances from the supporting cast, with Kirby as Sugar’s handler Ruby, Amy Ryan as rocker chick Melanie, Dennis Boutsikaris as the missing girl’s sleazy hack producer father Bernie and Eric Lange as the chillingly polite crime boss Stallings.

Sugar Apple TV Plus Amy Ryan
Sugar Apple TV Plus Amy Ryan

At its core, Sugar is hard-boiled film noir, and it artfully boils Sugar’s mission down to a simple mystery with a refreshing lack of frills, though it does get more complicated as it goes, piling on a few twists and double-crosses. (Thankfully, most episodes clock in at under 40 minutes as well, which is a bonus these days.) There’s nothing particularly innovative or even surprising about Sugar, but it’s extremely well-executed, and it serves as a fitting tribute to moody movie mysteries from decades past. I’d like to think that even John Sugar himself would enjoy it.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Apple TV+’s Sugar is a stylish throwback to classic film noir, with a compelling turn from star Colin Farrell.

Get more from TVLine.com: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter