Mayor Of Kingstown Review


Writer and director Taylor Sheridan has a talent for creating characters burdened with backstory. From Sicario through to Hell and High Water, his gift for turning everyday folk into intriguing character studies has already garnered him an Oscar nomination. That ear for tone of voice, intonation and turn of phrase always gives his creations a sense of depth, which shapes character through silence rather than conversation.

With Mayor of Kingstown, he has taken the traits which have cemented that reputation thus far, then kicked them up a notch providing Jeremy Renner with a solid gold role in the process.

Opposite Kyle Chandler as Mitch McLusky, Renner comes in low key as younger brother Mike — one of two power brokers who manipulate the lives of those who exist within the city limits of Kingstown, Michigan. In the opening episode, a sporadic voice over provided by Mike gives audiences an overview, making sure to point out how prevalent incarceration is as a profession in this town.

That’s something composer Andrew Lockington underpins through his score, establishing tone and intention quickly. Ominous piano motifs couple with wrought iron pipes on prison bars, as cameras swipe an overcast skyline and take in the seven prisons that jockey for prominence.

Mitch and Mike are quickly defined as a tag team who wield untold power through connections, associations and favors owed. With obsidian skies, close knit communities and criminal undercurrents, audiences are dropped in feet first, cushioned by an ensemble cast on top form. Between the sons and their mother, played with a steely determination by an understated Dianne Wiest, there is little to no love lost.

Mariam carries the burden of maternal instinct like a yoke around her neck, one which has worn her down to the bone before morphing into abject indifference in the process. Barely cloaking her distaste for a town that has forever sullied the family name, she stands alone, stripped of all emotional ties and defined by resignation. Amongst the cloaked conversations, intentional miscommunications and threats from all quarters, this family hold everything together.

From the outset there is a defeatist attitude that hangs over Mike McLusky, a man forever in the shadow of an older and more visibly dominant sibling. Mitch is the one everyone looks to and upon which they all rely. Playing street gangs against town officials, or keeping the status quo at gunpoint, Kyle Chandler gives Mitch a beleaguered edge borne of too much knowledge. This portrayal is something which determines how Taylor Sheridan’s Mayor of Kingstown plays out early on.

In many ways it is reminiscent of The Town, in depicting the lifestyle of people born and raised around specific cultural influences. Small mindedness, petty sniping and a day-to-day existence moulded by criminal activity really comes through to build drama. Stand outs include Tobi Bamtefa as local crip Kingpin and lawn chair enthusiast Bonnie. Opposite both Kyle Chandler and Jeremy Renner, he stands his ground and builds believability without resorting to caricature. Elsewhere, plaudits should go to co-creator and chrome domed police detective Hugh Dillon.

Crucially, one thing that this show allows Jeremy Renner to do is play silence. There are moments within the fabric of this show, where Mike McLusky is hit with pivotal decisions that offer potential salvation without guarantees. These beats allow him to play powerful moments through a glance, a pause, or better yet fleeting indecision as it passes across his face. These instants will not only draw audiences in but keep them coming back. As the tangled web of subterfuge and conspiracy deepens episode after episode, The Mayor of Kingstown continues to deliver something special.

Helmed by veteran directors whose titles include Mare of Easttown, Your Honor and a Get Carter remake on their resumes, this show couldn’t be in safer hands, allowing Taylor Sheridan’s work to speak for itself in dramatic terms, as tensions get perpetually ramped up and Mike is sucked deeper into the mire.

From a corporate perspective this Paramount+ original series also represents a statement of intent, regarding content and quality going forward. For a fledging streaming platform who require consistent amounts of decent drama if they hope to compete with the likes of Disney Plus, Mayor of Kingstown not only promises much; but delivers plenty into the bargain. If there were those who doubted the need for another streamer, in a marketplace many might consider oversaturated, then this series will appease naysayers and see Paramount+ hit the ground running.  

Mayor of Kingstown Review

This all too human drama, effectively sketches people hemmed in by family loyalties and limited choices. Proving once and for all that Taylor Sheridan remains a creative force to be reckoned with.