“I always bet on Red,” declares Detective Gregor Anghel as he raids an illicit casino in search of a murderous villain in a Ronald Reagan mask. Gregor may be a Romanian cop dedicated to the Communist regime, but when he moves his lips the voice of Channing Tatum comes out.
What’s going on here?
The concept is this: in the 1980s, millions of Romanians settled down in front of their TVs to watch the adventures of Gregor Anghel in Comrade Detective, a buddy cop show designed to subtly-not-so-subtly promote Communist ideals and inspire hatred of capitalist America. Abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has now been digitally remastered and dubbed into English by an all-star cast including Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Nick Offerman.
The thing is, no such series existed.
Instead, Magic Mike star Tatum and his pals have created the show from scratch. It’s a kind of pastiche, a satire, a whodunnit detective show with a dryly witty script that becomes hilarious once you’ve got the joke.
The show kicks off with the murder of Gregor’s cop partner Nikita by a man disguised as the US president. The Captain at Bucharest Police Department (voiced by Nick Offerman) assigns Gregor a new partner, Detective Iosef Baciu (voiced by Gordon-Levitt) and the two set off in search of their colleague’s killer. They burst into the US embassy, kick down doors, interrogate suspects and drink a lot of vodka – all while railing against the decadent and corrupt West.
The case itself is full of twists and suspense and plenty of 80s cop drama cliches, but the real genius comes with the political edge.
It’s all in the little touches, really. It’s in Iosef and Gregor’s absolute disgust when they discover what Monopoly is (barbaric!). Or when Gregor, frustrated that he can’t interrogate a severely-injured suspect until he’s out of hospital, says: “What if he doesn’t get out of here alive?” and the doctor hits back: “That’s impossible, Romania has the best healthcare in the world.”
Considering all the evil Russians and Eastern Europeans who populate Western dramas and James Bond movies (General Orlov, or Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Zhukovsky, or Tatyana Romanova to name but a few Bond villains), it’s also kind of fun to see American baddies.
And what baddies they are! The US ambassador is a beautiful blonde woman in an oversized fur coat who will double-cross anybody for money and practically orgasms when she sees dollar bills. The embassy itself is populated by obese men eating hamburgers, and none of them have any morals whatsoever. Whatever crimes are going down are an affront to the nation itself.
By contrast, the Romanians are model citizens – so long as they don’t come into contact with any dangerous Western culture or ideals. When they do, all hell breaks loose. There’s practically a riot when a truck draws up and starts distributing American blue jeans! Bible ownership leads to fanatical worship! Foreign travel will either corrupt you utterly – or leave you more convinced by Communism than ever!
Seeing as the concept behind the show is so weird, Comrade Detective is a tough one to sell. But selling things is for lousy American capitalists, so we shall simply say: if you are looking for a fake Romanian detective show with a (heavy) helping of political satire, this is definitely the series for you.
Comrade Detective will launch on Amazon Prime Video on 4th August