Sylvester Stallone

In Paramount’s “Tulsa King,” Sylvester Stallone seeks to turn back the hands of time.

Building on the success of “Yellowstone,” Paramount+ and producer Taylor Sheridan appear to have pounced on a streaming strategy centred on recruiting seasoned movie actors, a readily available resource in a field notorious for ageism. Enter “Tulsa King,” a lean vehicle for Sylvester Stallone that errs on the side of overt gangster design.

After serving 25 years in jail, Stallone’s Dwight Manfredi (who claims he was named after Eisenhower, no less) is finally set free, only to discover that the mafia bosses in his former neighbourhood of New York, some of whom he considered “babies” when he left to protect them, don’t want him around.

Domenick Lombardozzi, who plays the new boss, tells the employee, “There’s nothing left for you here,” adding, “We can’t just turn back the clock.”

Though conceptually, “Tulsa King” really achieves that by banishing Dwight to the depressing limits of Oklahoma, or at least attempts to. He promptly hires a driver (Jay Will) and gets to work demonstrating that he can continue to make money even in the countryside, first negotiating a deal with the nearby marijuana shop.

Dwight, who is anxious to prove to the lads back home that if he can make it there, he’ll make it anyplace, isn’t beyond hitting somebody in the face when they deserve it, which may be useful in negotiations.

As the comedy bounces between sitcom norms and R-rated “The Sopranos”-flecked embellishments, “Tulsa King” turns out to be a somewhat peculiar combination of qualities, relying almost exclusively on Stallone’s movie-star magnetism. It becomes obvious that a little ego stroking is also a part of the strategy when a lady first meets him and subsequently informs him that she assumed he was 55 (he admits to being 20 years older than that).

While Stallone commands the screen, some of the sitcom touches are weak and overt. For example, Dwight acts as if he is unaware of anything that occurred outside during his time in prison, shaking his head at cellphones, credit cards, and establishments that only accept cash, which is his preferred method of making purchases.

As previously said, Paramount and streaming services in general have emerged as havens for ageing actors. Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren will appear in the “Yellowstone” prequel “1932” next month. The fact that the poster features Stallone’s name in large letters above the title makes it apparent what they’re selling here, and with streamers fighting for attention, it’s not a terrible battle strategy after Stallone’s other recent streaming experiment with the movie “Samaritan” on Amazon.

In that regard, “Tulsa King” implies that you might be able to turn back time just a little bit, even if you have to fly a little bit lower now.

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