Say what you like about “Florida Man,” a riff through a lot of familiar action comedy/caper comedy/film noir tropes. It keeps you just invested enough to figure you’re going to have to finish it. Kind of. More or less.
The series isn’t a laugh riot or anybody’s idea of a deep dive into its genre or genres. And it isn’t as “authentic” as say, Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiassen’s “authentic” takes on the screwiness of The Sunshine State. But it does tease out its tale in that “limited series” way, even if the tale itself is as surprising as finding gator jerky next to the oranges and orange blossom honey at every gift shop from Cocoa Beach to Daytona.
Series creator Donald Todd (“This is Us,” “Hart of Dixie,””Sleepy Hollow”) did just enough research to land a few Florida zingers and get a general feel for Central Florida, the Orlando-Sanford-New Smyrna Beach/Coronado Beach setting. I know because I live here.
But the series is shallow and untidy and drawn-out, with some good players popping up in a few episodes and neglected for a few others. Many of the easy laughs don’t land.
Still, it makes a fine vehicle for Edgar Ramírez, a softer, edge-free “Bloodline” that jabs at Florida weirdness, Florida gun-nuttery and Florida corruption — just a bunch of shady characters trying to get their hands on — wait for it — Spanish treasure.
Ramírez is Mike, the ex Philly cop and gambling addict working off his debts to mobster Moss (Emory Cohen) by collecting on others’ debts, and running errands.
One of those little jobs turns out to be following Moss’s moll, Delly (Abbey Lee of “Lovecraft Country, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Old”), a skinny blonde femme fatale who skipped off to Florida.
Turns out Mike had a “thing” with the boss’s gal. Turns out Mike used to live in Florida. Turns out, he’s estranged from his shady-ex-cop Dad (Anthony LaPaglia, terrific). Turns out, Mike’s ex (Lex Scott Davis) is on the Philly PD task force investigating Moss.
And it turns out Delly was on to something big, a staggering fortune of undeclared treasure that is set to entangle Mike, his dad and an NC sheriff’s deputy (Clark Gregg) just visiting Florida with his family, the guy whose gun Mike stole out of baggage claim at the airport.
Double-crosses, back-stabbing, deaths and faked deaths and a treasure hunt play out against a backdrop of ditzy, giggling local TV reporters commenting on the goofy stuff that Florida Man in all his many moronic incarnations gets himself involved in — convenience store stick-ups with a sword, breaking INTO a jail, etc.
It’s jokey and occasionally those jokes land, or at least ring true — tweens firing a .22 at a “Welcome to Florida” sign, rednecks shooting at manatees.
“You can’t shoot manatees.”
“Not with this piece of sh– (gun), you can’t.”
Gregg the deputy’s daughter wants to ride “the zipline” at Gatorland.
“Hell No,” he says. “God only knows what meth-head screwed that together. But when it comes down in a pool of alligators, you can bet we WON’T be on it!”
That’s as close to “edgy” as “Florida Man,” and only in a “We could sue over that” sense.
Mike, who finds himself in a state he vowed never to return to, tells someone “I had to go to Florida.”
“So I could LEAVE Florida.”
There’s not a lot here that’s fresh or new. The whole enterprise feels like a manuscript Hiassen churned over out a long weekend, and stuck in a drawer as “Not quite there yet.”
Floridians and anyone who’s vacationed in the sink hole capital that’s home to Disney World may get the occasional kick out of it. But like the national punchline the “shaped like a gun” or “limp” phallus-shaped state itself, “Florida Man” can’t help but make you to ponder just what all the fuss is about, and think, “That’s not funny, that’s just…off.”
Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex, nudity, profanity
Cast: Edgar Ramírez, Abbey Lee, Paul Schneider, Clark Gregg, Lex Scott Davis, Judy Reyes and Anthony LaPaglia.
Credits: Created by Donald Todd. A Netflix release.
Running time: Eight episodes @:42-53 minutes each