Stallone Proves He's Still the Champ in Paramount+ Drama "Tulsa King"

By #AndradeSays Archives
Cover image for  article: Stallone Proves He's Still the Champ in Paramount+ Drama "Tulsa King"

When I first saw Paramount+'s Tulsa King on a poster, my initial thought was, "Stallone is cool, but shouldn't the 'King' of Tulsa, Oklahoma, be a Black person?" It's a valid thought and question, especially given Tulsa's bloody and racist history. Then a colleague told me that the show was "about dispensaries" and all those questions immediately faded due to my sudden and newfound interest.

Turns out that Tulsa King stars film legend Sylvester Stallone as Dwight "The General" Manfredi, a mob capo who just finished doing a 25-year, snitching-free stint in prison. Thinking he'd be properly compensated for his silence, Manfredi gets a rude awakening when instead he's "given" an entire city -- the city of Tulsa – to set up shop in, instead. I know… every New Yorker's dream, right?

All sarcasm aside, Tulsa King's fish-out-of-water tale managed to pique my interest pretty quickly out of the gate. Stallone's character isn't much of a jokester, but he still manages to be pretty funny, mostly because of Manfredi's matter-of-factness when it comes to all the new information he's not accustomed to. That was the thing that made me realize thatTulsa King wasn't so much "about dispensaries" as it was about Manfredi's old ass figuring out what the hell dispensaries are and how they work, all the while extorting one for protection money.

Manfredi comes from a time when marijuana was a jail sentence, and not just for some states, but everybody. However, that era is long gone, and while some states are taking a little longer to modernize than others, it doesn't change the fact that the cash purchase of medical marijuana is currently legal in Oklahoma, assuming you have a medical marijuana card. What Manfredi was right about, however, is the idea that this dispensary would eventually need protection. You see, currently, in real-life, medical marijuana is a cash-only market in OK, meaning that customers have to use cash -- not credit or checks -- for their THC purchases, employees are paid in cash and not direct deposit, and tax remittances have to be physically taken down to the Oklahoma Tax Commission's offices every month.

In short, that means that there's a lot of cash physically in these dispensaries, as seen when Manfredi has dispensary owner Bodhi (Martin Starr, pictured above, right) show him the inside of the office safe, revealing a cool half a million dollars. The only thing he was wrong about was the idea that Bodhi had to worry about the feds coming for his money and product. With that kind of cash lyin' around, one fat security guard, and zero cameras, it was probably a just matter of time before someone a lot less reasonable than Manfredi came walking through those doors.

And that's kind of the whole point of the show; that Manfredi, regardless of his past transgressions and current line of work, is not the devil. He's actually quite polite, fair and trustworthy. The biggest thing working against him is the fact that he's a dinosaur (and that cash doesn't seem to be as king as it used to be). He was a senior in high school when JFK was assassinated, for God's sake. Between his advanced age, the notoriously bigoted nature of those in his type of crime family (go count the number of N-bombs dropped in any mafia movie and get back to me) and the quarter century he spent in prison, it's a miracle Manfredi's not a full-on racist.

In fact, he's quite the opposite. At one point, he even assaults a car dealership owner (played by Steve Whitting) for not selling Tyson (Jay Will, pictured above, left), a young Black cabbie he hired to be his driver, a truck he was sent there to buy for him. "The problem is, you see a young Black guy with a mountain of money, and right away you say, 'Hey, he's gotta be a drug dealer,'" Manfredi politely snarls. "But I walk in, in a nice suit, and you're not afraid anymore. The irony is … [you're] afraid of the wrong thing." Then he beats the guy senseless with his own office phone.

All things considered, Manfredi's a pretty stand-up guy. Is his job illegal as hell? Sure, but this show would be boring as hell if he came out of prison and got a job at the library. Yes, at first, I did get kind of an "old dog versus new tricks" vibe from this series, but the reality is that some of the old tricks work just fine in this new world.

You can always see the dusty wheels in Manfredi's almost-eight-decades-old brain turning, which makes sense, because his eyes are always on the proverbial prize: making big money (so he can pay his monthly "mob rent," as a I call it), while making as small a name for himself as possible. The guy's been a capo longer than most people in the show have even been alive, so the question to ask yourself is, how do you get anything past a guy who's been running game since your mom was in diapers?

I have an unexpected level of respect for this show (and I'm happy to note that it has already been renewed for a second season). Stallone's a fun guy to watch, and Manfredi's a great character, who's funny and has a lot of heart. Not to mention, this little crew that he's building -- Tyson, Bodhi, Mitch (a salt-of-the-Earth bartender played Garrett Hedlund), Jimmy the weed farmer (whom we meet later), and Stacy Beale (his love interest who's also an ATF agent, played by Andrea Savage) -- is a likeable bunch as well. I'm excited to see this whole thing play out, because there's obviously a whole lot more to come. I mean, it's called Tulsa King, not Tulsa Would-Be King.

Tulsa King is now streaming on Paramount+.

Click the social buttons to share this content with your friends and colleagues.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this content are exclusively the views of the author and/or subject(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of, Inc. management or associated writers.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.