Stylish, sexy, and a little bit sleazy, the Carla Gugino-led crime series Leopard Skin almost feels off-brand for Peacock, the streaming home of many mild comedies and NBC reruns. It’s also a lot of fun and I’ll take it where I can get it, though I could certainly do without all the ad breaks.
The noir-ish thriller is the latest project teaming Gugino with writer/director Sebastián Gutiérrez, who previously created Cinemax’s Jett (2019) as a starring vehicle for the actress. In a lot of ways, Leopard Skin feels like it may have also been developed for Cinemax before getting bounced around to other platforms and winding up on Peacock. That’s not a bad thing. The show knows what it is and makes no pretenses otherwise. This may not be a weighty award-bait drama, but if you find yourself in the mood for a twisty heist caper filled with double- and triple-crosses, not to mention plenty of gratuitous nudity and sex, it’s nice to find something competent and entertaining to fill that need.
|Number of Episodes:||8|
|Release Date:||Nov. 17, 2022|
The opening of the first episode sets the tone with an extended rear-view shot of the lead actress, fully naked, stepping out of a swimming pool. She’ll show a lot more skin later. I’d almost consider this exploitative if Gugino weren’t an Executive Producer for the series and Gutiérrez weren’t her real-life romantic partner. That may not apply to the rest of the female cast, most of whom bare their flesh as well, but I have to assume they all knew what they were making and were on-board with it. If that sort of thing bothers you or simply isn’t your cup of tea, be advised that Leopard Skin is an unabashed throwback to the type of trashy erotic thrillers that proliferated in the 1990s and makes no excuses for it.
Gugino plays Alba Fontana, a former documentary filmmaker whose wealthy ex-husband recently died, leaving her in charge of a beachside mansion estate off the beaten path in Mexico. One day, the property is invaded by a trio of criminals looking for a place to lie low after a diamond heist went sour. One is wounded, and the other two are very grumpy about it. At first, all they need to deal with are Alba herself and a younger woman named Batty (Gaite Jansen), who is presumably her housekeeper, though both women are strangely evasive when questioned about their specific roles in the house.
Unfortunately, they’ve scheduled a dinner party for that evening and can’t cancel it because phone lines are down and the area has spotty cell service. This results in the con named Fausto (Gentry White) posing as their new butler to keep an eye on them while the ladies pretend everything is perfectly normal and try to get through the meal without letting on that they could all be murdered at any moment. That their guests are a raging narcissistic asshole (Philip Winchester from Cinemax’s Strike Back) and his flighty bimbo girlfriend (Amelia Eve, who was recently in The Haunting of Bly Manor with Gugino) may pose some challenges in that regard.
Over the course of the season, more characters get roped into this mess (literally roped, as it turns out) and major secrets are revealed, for both the criminals and the victims. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the relationship between Alba and Batty is a lot more complicated than it appears, and the details of how Alba came back into possession of her miserable ex’s house after he dumped her are very amusing. For their part, the three criminals have to report back to a corrupt judge in the States (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that they’re pretty sure set them up, while not trusting each other very much either. Cue the mind games and manipulation, a convoluted tangle of flashbacks, some violence, and no shortage of excuses for characters to take their clothes off.
As for the show’s title, multiple pairs of leopard print underwear factor into the plot.
Leopard Skin is not high art, but the show is very entertaining and well-made for what it’s trying to be. The cast is strong, the locations are beautiful, and the scripting mostly holds up to scrutiny. Gutiérrez shoots and edits the whole piece with a lot of stylistic affectations that thankfully come across as more playful than pretentious.
The series is also very darkly comic. The story gets pretty weird at times. As the season progresses, the focus shifts in unexpected ways and a genuine relationship develops between characters you wouldn’t initially expect.
With just eight half-hour episodes, the entire season is a quick binge. That said, realistically, the story probably would’ve worked just as well as a 90-minute movie and didn’t necessarily need to be dragged out to four hours. Fortunately, it plays just fine if broken into chunks over a couple nights. The show doesn’t feel overly long or wear out its welcome.
I have no idea if Peacock hopes to get a second season out of this. For the most part, Leopard Skin feels like a self-contained limited series that could safely end where it does. However, not all of the loose ends get tied up and the finale is only somewhat, but not entirely, satisfying. The ending leaves some wiggle room for more story to tell. If the series should come back, I’d watch again, but I’m also content to let it wrap up here if it doesn’t.
Peacock streams Leopard Skin in basic 1080p SDR video. Despite the lack of 4K or High Dynamic Range grading, this is a stylishly made show with bright, sharp, and colorful photography. Even compressed for streaming, it looks pretty good for regular high-definition. The series is primarily shot with an aspect ratio of 2.00:1, but a few episodes play around with a Variable Aspect Ratio format and have some scenes at a wider (or, in this case, smaller) 2.35:1. That gimmick tapers off after the first two episodes and I didn’t notice it again until episode 7, unless I missed some. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is serviceable, with little notable about it either good or bad, except that one of my streaming devices developed a really bad lip sync problem halfway through the season, forcing me to switch to another. I expect that was the fault of the glitchy Peacock app.
I’m currently on Peacock’s less-expensive “Premium” plan, with full access to the entire catalog at the cost of ad breaks in the content. I’m not typically bothered by that with most things I’ve watched on the streamer, but the ads in this show were very intrusive. Most episodes cut to commercial barely a couple minutes after starting and had an excessive number of breaks for a half-hour series. Many of them interrupted scenes still in progress, while natural pauses seemingly designed for ad breaks played right through. I don’t know that I’m inclined to pay extra for the “Premium Plus” tier just for this, but it was certainly annoying.
3 thoughts on “We Seem to Have a Trust Problem – Leopard Skin (2022) Season 1”
Carla Gugino naked: SOLD! I’ll try to give this a watch, hopefully today if my schedule allows it.
It isn’t exactly a rarity for her.
I’ve only seen her naked in Sin City, which was a good while back. Didn’t get a chance to check out the show yesterday. Probably/ hopefully today.