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'McMafia': They Keep Pulling Him Back In
February 26, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

The rich scion of a powerful family East of Europe decided some years ago that he preferred to make his own life in the West rather than enter the family dynasty.

Yet he still loves his family. So when the family falls into crisis and summons him, has he any alternative to being reeled back in?

Either way, it spells high intrigue in the world of money and power, which is never a bad bet for TV drama.

McMafia, this one is called. It’s an eight-part miniseries that premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on AMC and as an added bonus it stars James Norton (top) as Alex Godman, who left his Russian home to become a wealthy investment fund manager in London.

Norton is good enough that we can almost forgive him for taking roles like this and thus not having time for more seasons of Grantchester.

In a story that more than slightly echoes FX’s Tyrant from a couple of seasons back, Alex is more trying to get away from the family business than the family.

His father Dimitri (Aleksey Serebryakov) got rich in the Russian mob, an occupation that didn’t bother his mother Oksana (Maria Shkshina). What matters, she explains to Alex, is that he did get rich, and bought her lots of expensive stuff. Besides, she adds, everyone in Russia is called a mobster, so what difference does it make?

That’s the attitude that convinced Alex to stay in the West after he was sent to school in London and the United States. He now has a fluent British accent and claims he can barely speak Russian any more.

He retains great affection for the family, however, including his sister Katya (Faye Marsan) and particularly his uncle Boris (David Dencik).

So when his business runs into a problem, specifically that investors fear there may be a low-profile Russian connection, he goes to Boris for advice on how to find an angel that can keep him afloat.

Boris directs him to an Israeli friend, Semiyon Kleiman (David Straithairn, right), who naturally is a little less obsessed with the letter of the law than Alex. Consistent with other Godman family associates, Kleiman needs some money surreptitiously shuffled around, that is, laundered.

Alex is trying to find a Plan B, or C, or H, when something happens that starkly reminds him why he wanted out of the family business. This event also makes it nearly impossible for him not to get sucked back in.

What begins as a genteel, deliberately paced story centering on the good life of a rich London financier becomes a much faster paced and darker tale of greed, corruption, murder and deception.

It’s also about the willingness, almost eagerness of a tainted family not to let anyone escape.

Norton is magnetic, as usual, slipping effortlessly into a character who can only survive by summoning some of the traits he has spent his life trying to suppress.

Straithairn is also terrific, a disarming contrast to his more brutish colleagues in Russia.

McMafia suggests that in some case, you can’t not go home again.

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Dennis Robles
I am lucky to already have seen the series on BBC. It has its flaws, but better than what is produced in the US. When European TV is remade in America, tends to lose something in the translation. I think of The Bridge, The Returned and Broadchurch.
Feb 26, 2018   |  Reply
Agreed. With streaming online services I'm grateful for the opportunity to see the originals though not always without a struggle or else having to be very patient. For instance, recently, "Trapped", a BBC series I highly recommend *finally* came to Amazon.
Feb 27, 2018
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