Film Fans Must Watch Sugar, A Noir Love Letter And Killer Colin Farrell Showcase

Pop quiz: Which of these Apple TV+ shows is real? "Dear Edward," "Acapulco," "Liason," or "Swagger?" Trick question — the answer is all of them. I'm not trying to dunk on those specific shows, just illustrating the point that since Apple TV+ is still not a super heavy hitter in the streaming game, a lot of great stuff can easily fall through the cracks. But if you like compelling television, you won't want the new series "Sugar" to fall through the cracks. 

Created by Mark Protosevich ("I Am Legend," "The Cell") and executive produced and frequently directed by Fernando Meirelles ("City of God," "The Constant Gardener"), the series is a noir mystery starring Colin Farrell as John Sugar, a private investigator who is tasked with tracking down a missing girl in Los Angeles. You've seen that premise a thousand times in movies featuring guys like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and Dana Andrews. But "Sugar" not only welcomes those comparisons, it actively embraces them by adding a new flavor to this familiar trope: John Sugar is a film fanatic, regularly talking about his love of cinema, and the show actively engages with the history of the noir genre by employing a unique editing structure which occasionally crosscuts between Sugar's investigation and clips from classic noir movies where characters are performing similar actions. 

The second episode, for example, begins with that memorable shot from the beginning of "Sunset Boulevard" looking up at Joe Gillis' body floating in a swimming pool, and then cuts to a similar shot of John Sugar swimming in a pool at his hotel. All genre shows are in conversation with the projects that have come before, but "Sugar" incorporates that conversation into its own text.

Put Sugar on your radar

Not only that, the missing girl Sugar is trying to find happens to be the granddaughter of a legendary movie producer, so the show effectively uses the film industry as a backdrop and a springboard to explore ideas about fame, legacy, responsibility, and corruption. But while many noir projects would use a framework like that to also interrogate its protagonist — often a drunken, down-on-his-luck P.I. with a terrible mistake or two in his past that haunts him — "Sugar" does something almost radical by making its hero an actual good man. He remembers the name of everyone he meets, asks service industry workers how their family members are (and means it), and takes a genuine interest in helping an unhoused man he encounters on the streets of L.A. He's not a misanthrope that you're begrudgingly rooting for — he actually seems like a good person, which is a refreshing approach to this type of character in this specific genre.

I got great joy out of watching Farrell and the show's terrific supporting cast — Amy Ryan, James Cromwell, Kirby (formerly known as Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Anna Gunn, and Nate Cordrry — slip into these parts and roll around in the milieu of a modern noir story, but it's the overt links to the past that make it stand out from its contemporaries. "Sugar" is a noir series for cinephiles, and as a show full of juicy twists and turns, trust me when I say you're definitely going to want to be on the ride for this one.

/News Rating: 8 out of 10

The first three episodes premiere on Apple TV+ on April 5, 2024.