The Investigation · The Widower · The Chippendales

Plus Takeshi69 and the Canadian Mob. Must be Monday.

A docudrama based on a book about a Montreal Mob caper is coming to VOD this month. Mafia Inc., based on Mafia Inc: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada’s Sicilian Clan, lands in virtual cinemae on February 19. Called “must-see mafia viewing” by Alan Ng at Film Threat, the film’s story literally has a bridge to sell you:

1994. Frank Paterno (Sergio Castellitto), a Montreal mafia boss, hopes to legitimize his criminal operations by investing $180 million in an ambitious bridge project that would connect Sicily with southern Italy. First, however, he has to recover the necessary funds from his Greek creditor. Frank entrusts this mission to his protégé Vincent (Marc-André Grondin), the son of tailor Henri Gamache (Gilbert Sicotte), who has been dressing the Paternos for three generations. But after Vincent executes a ruthless plan to smuggle millions in drugs out of Venezuela, his reprehensible tactics ignite a war between the two families.

There’s a Gangster Tailer Soldier Spy joke here. Alas. Anyway, the trailer’s below! — SDB

And here’s another trailer, for Showtime’s upcoming docuseries Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6ix9ine. I’m definitely interested in the series, and what it might have to say about both Tekashi69 (born Daniel Hernandez) specifically, and the way the hip-hop genre generally has its own tropes uniquely leveraged against it.

But I’m not sure about Showtime’s PR choices here; the press release I got last week starts mentioning the idea of “manufactured celebrity” as soon as the subhed, and goes on to use that phrase again; drop the terms “social media,” “trolls,” and “viral”; and overall is kind of a slapped-up “in this paper, I will prove” piece of writing that doesn’t seem entirely sure what the three-parter’s thesis statement on hip-hop celebrity and online selves…is.

Through the narrative spine of Tekashi 6ix9ine’s controversial artistry and personal demons, this bizarre and complicated story is in many ways the truest reflection of current times as it unpacks the life-shattering results of influence, impact of social media and the disturbing possibilities of a deeply connected world.

Not that it really needs a thesis statement, and again: I’m going to watch it (it’s narrated by Giancarlo Esposito!); I can’t imagine director Karam Gill won’t have a more cogent way of marshaling the information. But it was striking to me that what boils down to a lengthy to-date biopic is getting a relatively circumspect “Facebook created a monster” sell. Maybe that’s just me. — SDB

All we know about NBC’s The Widower is the premiere date: February 18. Oh, and that it’s a three-part series from the producers of Dateline. Even Deadline couldn’t get any further intel about the topic out of NBC:

NBC was short on details about the docuseries but said The Widower goes behind the scenes of one of the country’s most confounding murder investigations, revealing a tale of evil and a tireless quest for justice in real time.

So, that’s…literally every Dateline episode. Making this…a three-part Dateline event, which evidently the NBC system of networks wants prospective viewers to mistake for a more traditionally prestige-y property, while finding itself unable to jam the square peg of…whatever this is into the round hole of the Dirty John: The Dirty Johnning brand? If anyone watches this bad boy and wants to theorize on what necessitated this level of coyness, we’re here for it. — SDB

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What I hope you’re doing instead is watching The Investigation, which you can marinate in in its entirety on HBO Max starting today. It’s a subtitled six-parter on the so-called “submarine case” that saw journalist Kim Wall head to an inventor’s submarine to interview him, then disappear, but before you click a link to an explainer on the case, consider going into the miniseries cold. Why? Because the docudrama’s writer/director, Tobias Lindholm, has subtracted “the accused” entirely from his account. No interview-room scenes with him; none of the associated smug-killer/furious-detective clichés; no profiling; not even his name. I experienced all six episodes not knowing anything about the guy except what he had allegedly done, and how little of it the Copenhagen homicide unit could prove. There’s also no terror-porn re-enacting of Wall’s end — and once you realize what’s “missing,” you realize how little you, well, miss it.

This isn’t to say the property is perfect; Lindholm did seem to have lost some nerve when it came to discarding the entire traditional framework of a cop story:

[I]n a series that otherwise focuses so narrowly (and so effectively) on its titular investigation, it's not clear why we're shilly-shallying around with a predictable estrangement subplot. Like, of course the detente coffee date [Copenhagen homicide chief Jens Møller] has with his pregnant daughter is ruined by a long-awaited discovery out on the water. Of course he and Maibritt (Laura Christensen), a detective his daughter's age, end up falling asleep on each other's shoulders while waiting for the coroner's report. And of course there are cellos to tell us how to feel about the conflict.

Lindholm absolutely knows better than to waste his time (and ours) with this hackneyed garbage, and yet the runner stays in place for the length of the series.

Even with that subplot, though (and literally a dozen appearances by a dive-team chief who’s like, “but these dives are too hard please revise the coordinates” — sir, you are in the navy; cope or don’t, but if we see one more of these scenes, I will scream), The Investigation is beautifully shot and paced, and it’s thoughtful. And those search dogs? Were the real dogs from the real investigation! Aw. HBO’s off to a very strong start this year. — SDB

The bad news about The Investigation is that, not realizing it wasn’t a four-parter, I failed to budget my time correctly over the weekend, so my January bonus book review won’t hit until later today. But if you’re interested in my thoughts on We Keep The Dead Close, grab a paid subscription; then you can read allllll that bonus content.

And you can still help pick my bonus review for February…


Spotify’s next original true-crime pod, Welcome To Your Fantasy, drops next Wednesday February 10. Just in time for Valentine’s Day (?), it’s a tale of the rotten heart under the lubricated hairless chest of Chippendales:

In the 1980s the “male exotic dancers” of Chippendales were everywhere, selling the promise of women’s liberation for the price of a few dollars in a g-string. But behind the powerful mullets, oiled pecs, and non-stop parties lies a much darker story of greed, corruption and murder. In the eight-episode series host and historian Natalia Petrzela exposes one of the great, sordid, unexamined stories in American culture.

I’m not a Spotify guy, but Welcome To Your Fantasy comes from Pineapple Street and Gimlet, and you can sample the trailer here; or you can head back into our archives and read up on the upcoming project starring Dev Patel, the 2000 TV movie starring Naveen Andrews, and the L.A. Times longread from 1994 that should hold you other non-Spotify types until the Craig Gillespie project (or a rumored doc project) hits VOD. — SDB

Tuesday on Best Evidence: T.I. and Tiny, and…Charles Bronson?

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