Romania Vice: “Comrade Detective” Is a Truly Great Amazon Original

Comrade Detective is must-watch television with or without the satire.

Picking a new show to watch can be a daunting task when there are a gazillion possible options out there. Sometimes, however, a show will stick out and grab your attention. Maybe it features a really strong cast, or it’s from a reputable director. Maybe you just think the main character is hot. Whatever the case may be, some shows just have a way of getting you to watch.

For Comrade Detective, it was actually the premise that got me hooked. It’s a satire of American buddy cop shows and movies from the eighties… but from a Communist perspective (which also means Communist propaganda is satirized by default as well). This is an Amazon Original that goes all out, with a cast and crew that is 99 percent Romanian. The entire show was filmed in Romania, in Romanian, and the English dubbing voice actors were only found after the show was edited. That’s some real commitment to making a quality satire.

Speaking of voice actors, this is a show that not only features Channing Tatum as a voice actor for one of the two buddy cops, but it also uses Tatum as a presenter for the show along with Jon Ronson. Comrade Detective is supposed to be a “lost” show that never aired because it was created right before the fall of the Berlin Wall; it subsequently gets brought to the spotlight after being rediscovered decades later through a rigorous restoration process so the beginning of most of the six episodes features Tatum and Ronson discussing the journey before the show actually starts.

Like I said, this is some next level shit.

For a show like this, it’s important to judge both the satire and the quality of the show itself independent of the satire. I believe a truly successful show should succeed in both categories and I’m very happy to say Comrade Detective is a worthy watch for all interested viewers.

What I really enjoyed about the satire was how layered it is. Some of the satire is clearly inaccurate – a representation of how much of American pop culture either dramatized or dehumanized Eastern Europe and Russia in the eighties – while a good portion of it is shown through the loyal Communists expressing issues with capitalism, religion, and even the mindset of us Western folks.

Maybe it was intentional, or maybe I just eased into the Communist mindset, but I found that the satire is more jarring or noticeable in the beginning of the show, only to evolve into more of a statement against Western ideals rather than more basic, visual approaches like showing Americans as fat pigs who stuff themselves with burgers.

While there are certainly moments in later episodes that are clearly meant to be exaggerated, I found Comrade Detective really settling into itself as a quality program regardless of the satire as time went by. After a certain point, the story takes priority over the satire, to the point where the satire almost becomes irrelevant. Sure, it helps remind us that this show is both a satire of American pop culture and Communist propaganda, but even if you forget, it doesn’t take anything away from the overall experience thanks to the surprisingly engaging plot.

Like the best buddy cop pairings, the duo of Gregor Anghel (Tatum) and Iosif Baciu (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) starts with tragedy. Anghel’s partner gets murdered by a man wearing a Ronald Reagan mask in a drug bust gone wrong. Determined to find out the killer’s identity, Anghel pairs up with a new partner, Baciu, and discovers a truly heinous plot to spread capitalism and religion through Romania (and all of Communist society, naturally) over the course of six incredible episodes.

Like I said, it’s a genuinely interesting storyline that somehow gets more amusing, more serious, and more addicting as time goes by. The climax is kind of predictable if you keep in mind this is a satire yet it is superbly presented and I think there’s a possibility there might be a sequel to this gem.

Also, I want to give kudos to the Romanian actors and actresses who all do a phenomenal job and I wish we could get a version of the show without the English dubbing. It’s perfect acting all the way around and I thought the Western characters were fascinating to observe just because they are supposed to be stereotypes. Much like the best Commie villains from the eighties, the Western baddies in Comrade Detective are portrayed in a one-dimensional, yet surprisingly relatable way.

While I felt mostly neutral about the voice dubbing, there was one positive for sure: playing the always entertaining game of Who’s That Voice? All I’m gonna say is that Comrade Detective has one hell of a cast. Nick Offerman is the police chief, for example – this is extra amusing when you consider his character’s views on government in Parks and Recreation. But there are bigger names lurking within this show and it’s just a delightful cherry on top of the average capitalist pig’s sundae.

This show is perfect for a lot of different demographics. Even if you choose to disregard the excellent satire, this is a strong drama with an interesting plot that gets extra fuel thanks to the passionate work done by the Romanian actors and actresses, the big names providing amusing voiceover work, and production values that walk a fine line between too good and good enough for a Romanian television show from the eighties.

Now be a good Communist and share this valuable information with everyone in your village! It’s what Lenin would do!

Kevin and Barrett’s Bogus Journey: Searching for a Young Han Solo

My buddy Kevin –  yes, the one that gets mentioned all the time (and who now has his own blog) – and I had a conversation on potential candidates for a young Han Solo in his standalone film.

BARRETT

So they’re making a standalone Han Solo film, which has naturally got a lot of people wondering just who should play young Han Solo. I’ve heard names ranging from Chris Pratt to even actresses.

I personally think maybe they shouldn’t make that movie at all… but what do I know.

KEVIN

Agreed on the “not making it at all part,” along with any other new Star Wars movies, for that matter. Pratt isn’t a bad idea, but I feel like his Guardians of the Galaxy character was a Han Solo type already, so there might be too much overlap there.

However, if we have to have this movie, it’s worth discussing a couple of possibilities.

BARRETT

Let’s not forget Pratt’s name has also come up for Indiana Jones – and every other male role in the near future. He’s the obvious choice, I would say, so yeah, we should take a look at some other – more intriguing – names. Like Lee Pace.

I know you know who that is, but if you’ve seen him in the first half of the first season of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, you’ll know why Pace is such a deceptively great choice. He shows a ton (A TON) of charisma and charm and even swagger, but the depth comes later on, when we see how conflicted and damaged he is on the inside.

I like to think a young Han Solo would obviously be quite charming, but surely there were some unfortunate events that led to where we know he ends up – on account of him being a rogue smuggler – and we all know past tragedies make good origin stories!

KEVIN

Personally I wouldn’t mind if Hollywood took a break from the “tragic backstory” angle for a little while, but I digress. My first choice for Han Solo is kind of a stretch, but I think he’d really kill it. Glenn Howerton – best known as Dennis on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – has shown a real gift for comedy, but I think it would be cool to see him take on a more serious role.

Han’s always been an irreverent character; he’s got no time for all that “Force” mumbo-jumbo, he’s just on the lookout for his next payday. Glenn would probably have to tone down the creepiness, though.

BARRETT

I think he would be a great choice if he gets the perfect director to guide him. He’s really good at being a fucking piece of shit, and Han can be like that sometimes. But I don’t think Han has a H.A.N. system for seducing intergalactic chicks, so Glenn would definitely need to strike a good balance between cocky maverick and a creepy pig.

But he’s definitely shown an ability to be confident – even arrogant, perhaps – and it would be interesting to see if he can take that into the leading role of an iconic part, especially when most of his movie credits are vague supporting roles like in Crank.

KEVIN

And Crank 2. If you haven’t seen those, by the way, watch them right now.

BARRETT

As a side note, I’m wondering how much the new actor has to look like a really young Harrison Ford. Is it okay if we just chuck that aside? Because that would certainly open up more candidates. But this guy has shown he can impersonate people when he needs to, from Edward Snowden to Bruce Willis… I’m talking about my boy Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

KEVIN

I thought the Han Solo role had a height requirement.

BARRETT

I guess that rules me out then. My case for JGL is pretty simple: why the hell not? Case closed. Jury dismissed. Also, he really nailed the cool aspect in Looper.

KEVIN

Can’t argue with that logic. Well, as long as we’re on the subject of batshit crazy ideas that will never happen, another suggestion on my part would be Johnny Knoxville. Yes, The Ringer was a pretty bad movie, but Knoxville was the best part of it. There’s a quality about him that would really fit the character.

He looks like a guy who’s been involved in some sketchy stuff, but who’s ultimately a good person. I think that’s something people have always responded to with Han Solo’s character; he’s a more flawed, more human good guy than his Jedi counterparts.

BARRETT

Some might even say he’s a scoundrel with a heart. I can see something in Knoxville, even though it’s an outlandish idea. I think the problem with Glenn Howerton and Knoxville is that both are so closely associated with one thing – It’s Always Sunny and Jackass, respectively – that it might be hard to break from that image.

Let’s try to be more reasonable – someone studio execs can get behind.

KEVIN

Yeah, because that always ends well.

BARRETT

I’m thinking of someone with serious action experience, who has also shown a sensitive side. He’s saved the world and made us laugh in the process over and over and over and over and over again. He’s a critical and commercial darling who can do no wrong.

Mr. Adam. Sander. And bring Jar Jar back too!

KEVIN

Why not combine these two great ideas?

“This Summer, Adam Sandler is Jar Jar Binks in his very first solo movie! Co-Starring Kevin James as Anakin Skywalker and David Spade as Obi-Wan Kenobi!”

BARRETT

Just shoot me.

Okay then, how about someone like Miles Teller? Gritty, yet sensitive, and he’s got an underrated sense of humor. Sure, he looks nothing like Harrison Ford, but his talent should balance that out.

KEVIN

I’m a big fan of his, and it’s an interesting choice, but I don’t think he can pull off the swagger that’s so integral to Han’s character. I could be wrong, though.

OK, I’ve got one more. This one might be too on-the-nose, but I think Jensen Ackles of Supernatural would do an excellent job. Dean’s already a Han Solo type, albeit one who’s a lot more brooding. But Ackles always brought levity to that show, and I think he’d do the same in the Han Solo movie.

BARRETT

That’s a great choice. I know one of my Iowa buddies would splooge in his pants if he read what you just wrote. So good job, I guess. Since I’m against a solo Han Solo movie, I really don’t care who it ends up being. I still think it would be a great twist if they made Han female.

Who cares about continuity? It’s freaking Star Wars.

KEVIN

I see your point, but if you’re going to take the character in such a radical direction, why not just create a new franchise? I’d love to see a movie starring a character who could be described as a female Han Solo, but wouldn’t actually making her Han Solo just add to the endless list of Star Wars permutations? I’ll take something (relatively) original over that any day.

BARRETT

Maybe. I guess they could just steer away from everybody’s past and make a movie with Solo’s kids or something. Then they could make relatively original content while giving us a little bit of that Han Solo charm and whatnot without having to explicitly use the guy repeatedly.

KEVIN

Not a bad idea. Of course, if it were up to me, they’d stop beating these long-dead sci-fi franchises into the ground and face the challenge of creating something from scratch. But then J.J. Abrams would be out of a job.

BARRETT

Hey there was Cloverfield! I think the question is this: do any of us really care what Han Solo’s origin story is? Because I don’t. I like having his background a mystery – it fits the whole “rogue smuggler” mystique. It’s also why it was so dumb giving us the “pleasure” of watching a young Boba Fett see his dad’s head get chopped off by Mace Windu. Leave the mystery to us! Let US make our own origin stories for some of the characters.

KEVIN

I completely agree. I’m willing to bet that any Han Solo origin story is going to be less satisfying than what my imagination can come up with. Him and Chewy are such a fun duo, and it’s great to think about their adventures before Luke came into the picture. But explicitly putting that stuff on screen, instead of just letting it be implied, is a mistake.

BARRETT

Everything connects together, in the end. While we (you and I) want studios to take more risks and make fresh content, studios are finding all these franchises tend to bring in a whole lot of money, and it almost seems like flops like Terminator: Gabagool are the exception rather than the rule.

Disney knows people will line up to see whatever Star Wars movie they come up with, and I think they’re playing it safe by showing us Han’s earlier days. It’s too bad, because the opportunities are endless, but I think we can all make some generic guesses and nail the movie’s plot way before it comes out.

KEVIN

Smart money’s on Han getting into a fight with (and kicking the asses of) some rowdy alien thugs in some bar within the first ten minutes. And get ready for cheap, blatant pandering when the Millennium Falcon is revealed.

To be completely honest, I’d much rather see a Jar Jar origin story. It would probably (no, definitely) be terrible, but I would admire the studio for at least doing something we weren’t all expecting. Plus, imagine all the crazy hijinks he would get into!

BARRETT

Maybe they could do a Jar Jar death story; you know, what he does after Revenge of the Sith. Then he dies. On screen. Painfully.

KEVIN

I’d be OK with this, but only if the majority of the movie consists of him exploring the afterlife and questioning his place in the universe. Lock for Best Picture, for sure.

BARRETT

Directed by Woody Allen. He can meet a frazzled lost soul (literally) in the afterlife and then they get together and just talk a lot. Because we love hearing Jar Jar Binks talk.

KEVIN

Once again, we’ve come up with an idea that’s far too good to ever get made.

BARRETT

The struggle is real.