The Spool / Reviews
Do not take the trip to see Florida Man
An overlong miniseries offers nothing new for those remotely experienced in Tarantino pastiches and mystery thrillers.
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An overlong miniseries offers nothing new for those remotely experienced in Tarantino pastiches and mystery thrillers.

The modern age of streaming shows has delivered countless programs that boast in their press releases about being “just long movies.” The new Netflix limited series Florida Man continues this trend. Worse, it puts its own insufferable spin on the mold by stretching out a late-1990s Quentin Tarantino knock-off to nearly seven hours of storytelling. Yearning for a return to the era of non-linear crime dramas embracing the notion that F-bombs and shady behavior turn the story into the new Reservoir Dogs? This Donald Todd-created series will make you giddy. Unfortunately, everyone else will likely come away irritated.  

Contrary to the title, Florida Man begins its story in Philadelphia. That’s where ex-gambling addict and ex-Sunshine State resident Mike Valentine (Edgar Ramirez) eeks out an existence. He’s paying off his hefty debts to gangster Moss Yankov (Emory Cohen) by working as an enforcer. When Yankov’s girlfriend, Delly West (Abbey Lee), makes tracks for Florida, the boss sends Mike back South to retrieve her.  

Of course, this task becomes far more complicated than initially anticipated. While down in the state of Ron DeSantis, our protagonist gets ensnared in old family secrets, West’s secret agenda, and lost Spanish gold. The state’s a lot like quicksand. The more Valentine tries to wriggle out, the more trapped he becomes. 

Florida Man (Netflix)
Emory Cohen and Abbey Lee discuss the best way to get menthol. (Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix)

The writing of Florida Man makes a lot of grave mistakes. Chief among them is making Florida feel more like a cartoon than an actual place on Earth. The writers, including Todd and Nikki Toscano, have clearly seen headlines about strange behavior emanating from Florida. Alas, that seems to be the entire foundation of their understanding of the state. Every working class or cash-strapped denizen is a gun-toting cartoon character straight out of a Family Guy cutaway gag.  

It gives the action a pervasive sour flavor. Even attempts to counter it, like vacationing Deputy Sheriff Ketcher (Clark Gregg), are undercut by condescension and subpar writing. Gregg’s comments don’t function as a counterbalance when all his snouty assumptions about Floridians are born out by Florida Man’s indulgence of broad stereotypes.

The writing is no better with the dialogue. One can feel it straining to be clever and provocative. An early comment from Delly about how Florida, despite being shaped like a flaccid penis, “can still [screw] someone over” sets a precedent. So many more lines aiming for vulgar insight but registering as tedious edginess follow. A recurring beat with the violent Valentine being inexplicably fixated on improperly placed apostrophes similarly misses the mark. The attempt at “comedic” dissonance only reminds viewers of much better pop culture gangsters obsessed with mundane rules. Robert Loggia’s passion for tailgating in Lost Highway this is not. 

Between the caricatured approach to Florida and writing that poorly emulates Tarantino and Raymond Chandler, Florida Man has little to offer narratively. Somehow, though, it’s even worse on the eyes. Despite taking so many basic storytelling cues from noirs, this show has opted to take absolutely no evocative visual traits from the genre. Bright lighting abounds no matter the tone of an individual scene, a quality that counteracts the story’s intended grimy crime aesthetic. Sure, this yarn unfolds in the Sunshine State, but does it need to be lit as if the sun never sets?  

A program this poorly paced fails in a lot of ways, especially in being a compelling mystery thriller.

All of these issues weigh down a reasonably talented cast. Not even a reliable actor like Ramirez can magically transform all this tin-eared dialogue into something special. The only one coming out anywhere near on top is Cohen, who grows into the roles as the show progresses. While initially hitting all the wrong notes, he soon leads into Yankov as a child playing gangster dress-up. 

In the show’s finale, Cohen lends real believability to Yankov opening up about his relationship with his father. For just a moment, Florida Man touches on something human and complicated. It’s an impressive accomplishment, especially considering the tremendously flawed show around it.  

Unfortunately, it’s not worth sitting through so much dreary storytelling to witness Cohen’s evolution. A program this poorly paced fails in a lot of ways, especially in being a compelling mystery thriller. Shot like and carrying all the suspense of a Disney Channel sitcom, Florida Man aims to be the next Pulp Fiction but instead lands closer to something as reviled as The Big Hit. 

Florida Man is currently laying for a base tan on Netflix.

Florida Man Trailer: