Don’t Miss Out on Comrade Detective, Amazon’s Bizarre and Awesome Buddy Cop Spin on the Romanian ‘80s
By David McLean Shoup
It’s not everyday that a mainstream American studio features a show about Romania. So, in case you missed it, OZB is revisiting 2017’s summer hit series Comrade Detective, still streaming on Amazon Prime. Featuring a well known cast of Romanians, including Florin Piersic, Jr. in the lead role of Detective Gregor Anghel, a slew of Hollywood A-listers such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Daniel Craig and Mahershala Ali provide hilarious and intentionally mismatched voice-over English dubs.
Comrade Detective is a comedy at core, but one that forces its audience to consider the more nuanced approaches to propaganda, past and present, through the niche 1980s faux-communist lens of a vintage buddy cop genre. The six part series offers itself as a mock set up of a 1983 Romanian state-produced police procedural (it’s anything but, rather filmed on location in 2016) that has been unearthered, digitially remastered, and re-dubbed at the behest of American actor Channing Tatum, who provides voice-over to Piersic Jr.’s chain smoking, womanizing, and Marx-quoting Detective Anghel. After Anghel’s partner is killed by a mysterious assasasin/bible smuggler toting a Ronald Reagan mask, he joins forces with a rural police officer (played by Corneliu Ulici and voiced by Gordon-Levitt) to unravel a conspiracy involving the U.S. Embassy, blue jeans, and yes, a game of Monopoly. The Monopoly boardgame and many other well-placed motifs throughout the series serve as successful tongue-in-cheek tropes of capitalism and communism that offer laugh out moments, groans, and everything in between throughout Comrade Detective’s racy and stylish first season.
Some of the best thought provoking laughs come from moments in which the cast and creators break a sort of fifth wall, one in which the show’s American writers envision how Romanian propagandists might have spun American culture for their own audiences forty years ago. Ulici’s/Gordon-Levitt’s Detective Baciu delivers killer lines here with his consistent mispronunciation of Jordache Jeans as “Jordahkey.” More over-the-top but equally funny is the show’s representation of the staff at the American embassy, occasionally portrayed as morbidly obese golfers holed up in a corner with stacks of pancakes and hamburgers.
In an age when propaganda is delivered with less bite and lurks deeper in the shadows of our perceptions, Comrade Detective serves as a unique form of visual theater that reaches beyond action comedy to make us viewers look a little bit deeper into how and why we think as we do.