The Goddamn State Is Shaped Like a Gun! – Florida Man (2023) Limited Series

When trying to imagine a visual metaphor that defines the essence of the state of Florida, the image of an alligator rising to the surface of a lake carrying a gun on its back just about nails it. I wish I had thought of it. That scene actually happens in an early episode of Netflix’s Florida Man. The series, a darkly comic thriller set in the Sunshine State, does a pretty great job of capturing both the insanity and the allure of America’s southernmost loony bin.

We’ve all seen some of the outrageous headlines that regularly turn into memes on social media: “Florida Man Arrested After Driving Mustang Up a Telephone Pole” or “Florida Man Robs Waffle House with His Finger Guns” and the like. If you’ve never lived there, you may not fully appreciate just how common and frequent those stories are. Shit like that happens just about every day in one part of the state or another. The creators of this series obviously had that in mind, and were further inspired by famous Florida-based crime novels by authors such as Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, whose stories are laced with colorful nutjob characters and biting humor.

Florida Man (2023) - Abby Lee as Delly
Title:Florida Man
Number of Episodes:7
Release Date: Apr. 13, 2023
Watched On: Netflix

The show’s protagonist, Mike Valentine (Edgar Ramírez), originally came from Florida and never wants to go back. Forced to do so, he spends the entire time trying to get out again. As a former refugee from the place myself, I can sympathize.

Mike was once a cop, but a serious gambling addiction put an end to that career. These days, he works as errand boy and muscle for Moss Yankov (Emory Cohen from Netflix’s The OA), a second-rate Philadelphia gangster. Moss inherited the family business from his late father, a respected and feared old-school crime lord, but the son is kind of a dipshit and nobody takes him nearly as seriously as they did the old man. Nonetheless, Mike owes Moss a lot of money and has to do what he says until that debt can be paid off.

When Moss’ girlfriend, Delly (Abbey Lee from HBO’s Lovecraft Country), runs off to Florida with a thumb drive full of compromising documents, Mike is given orders to follow and fetch her back home. He has a thousand reasons to not want to do this, not the least of which is that she landed in his old hometown, where his father (Anthony LaPaglia) still looms as an imposing crime figure in his own right. However, he ultimately reasons that the job will be worth completing if he can use it as leverage to get out from under Moss’ thumb.

From this commences a twisty tale involving murder, betrayal, thievery, a love triangle, and possibly even buried treasure. In many ways, the show is an old-fashioned noir in the bright Florida sun. The performances are all very good, with special praise to Abbey Lee as the central femme fatale. The dialogue is clever and filled with great quips about life in the state. The running thread of blackly comic humor is hilarious throughout.

A subplot involving Paul Schneider as an increasingly frustrated local police deputy doesn’t really go anywhere. Another with Clark Gregg as a vacationing out-of-town deputy sheriff who gets wrapped up in a series of misadventures while hunting for his stolen gun is amusing but feels like a sideshow distraction never particularly relevant to the main plot (despite the fact that Gregg actually directed the season’s final two episodes). I’m also not sure that the show sticks the landing at the end as strongly as it might have. Those minor flaws aside, the story is interesting and entertaining enough to hold the thing together.

At just seven episodes, Florida Man makes a quick and undemanding binge. It’s a lot of fun and I had a really good time tearing through it over a couple nights.

Florida Man (2023) - Anthony LaPaglia as Sonny

Video Streaming

Netflix streams Florida Man in 4K HDR at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The presentation looks terrific. The image is very sharp with nice contrast and rich colors. Even though a lot of the story takes place at night, the picture never looks dim (as too often happens with HDR content). The color and HDR grading are vivid and appealing, especially in the bright daytime scenes.

The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is also well done but doesn’t often call attention to itself. The music is mildly bassy at times. Edgar Ramírez’s accent sometimes sounds a little muddy in the mix, but not enough to be bothersome. Fidelity is otherwise fine. Beyond that, the audio supports the show well enough that I didn’t think much about it, either for good or ill.

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