Fans of complex narratives, rejoice. Fans of simpler, more linear storytelling, lament. Only, as with so many modern films and television shows, it seems that The Assassination of Gianni Versace is taking a rather complex route in laying out its fascinating story.
Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento and the BBC’s recent serial killer thriller Rellik, this American Crime Story follow-up to The People Vs. O J Simpson is – mostly – telling its story backwards. With each episode outlining the events immediately before the previous instalment. So with last week’s opener showing us the brutal murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace, this week’s events centre around his murderer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) arriving in Miami. On the run after a rampage that saw him killing four people across the United States.
The chronology isn’t quite that simple, though. Pre-titles we’re shown the very sombre follow-on and fall-out from Versace’s shooting. So it appears that we’re running two timelines at once. Not only does it seem that the writers may well have been influenced by Nolan’s Memento, but they’re also fans of Inception too.
This second episode is called ‘Manhunt’ and shows Cunanan running from police after his pre-Versace murder spree. What we’re mostly enjoying so far here is the distinct lack of clichés around how the story is being told. That said, it isn’t exactly a very clichéd story…
Let’s put it this way: How many TV shows and movies about manhunts have you seen where the criminal on the run cleverly escapes the clutches of the police while screaming the words to ‘Gloria’ by Laura Branigan out of the window of their car as they drive away? Exactly.
Cunanan’s destination? Miami Beach (as we know). Somehow, the crazed and delusional killer instantly makes a friend there too. HIV-positive Ronnie (New Girl’s ever-excellent Max Greenfield) clearly knows there’s something off about his new pal and you get the distinct sense that he realises that nothing good can come of their relationship. But our manipulative lead character here is, bizarrely, really quite irresistible.
The pair do coke in a dingy cheap hotel room at a rather sharp contrast to Cunahan’s soon-to-be victim Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramírez) and his boyfriend Antonio D’Amico’s (Ricky Martin), who are seen living it up at their mansion, in exclusive nightclubs and at one of Versace’s huge fashion shows.
Props have to go to the costume department here. Versace’s show has a catwalk show scene full of gorgeous Versace outfits. Except they’re not really Versace outfits. The fashion house wouldn’t allow any of their pieces to be used in American Crime Story, so all the Versace apparel had to be recreated. It’s impressive work too. ‘Cameos’ from Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and supermodel Naomi Campbell add to the impressive realism of this scene.
This second episode features an early nomination for Weirdest TV Scene of the Year. Cunahan decides, to earn some money, to take on ‘a client’. An old rich guy who fancies an hour or two of submission, tied up to a swanky hotel bed. Cue our anti-hero manically wrapping the elderly man’s head up tightly in duct tape to a soundtrack of Phil Collins’ Easy Lover. So that’s a little Memento, a sprinkling of Inception and about six large bowls full of American Psycho thrown into this episode. And it’s all the better for it.
Criss managed to make Cunahan really quite scary in the opening episode. And if this second hour does anything, it really allows him to crank things up and seriously terrify us with his portrayal of the weirdly little-known murderer. Where many on-screen psychopaths scare us with their brute strength, viciousness and almost monster-like brutality, Cunanan unsettles with his unnerving verbosity. Finally making his way into Twist, the club Versace frequents, he’s approached by a guy on the dancefloor who asks him who he is and what he does:
“I’m Andy. I’m a serial killer… I said I’m a banker. I’m a stockbroker. I’m a shareholder. I’m a paperback writer. I’m a cop. I’m a naval officer. Sometimes I’m a spy. I build movie sets in Mexico and skyscrapers in Chicago. I sell propane in Minneapolis, import pineapples from the Philippines. You know, I’m the person least likely to be forgotten. I’m Andrew Cunanan.”
That’s a creepy guy right there.
The backwards storytelling may confuse a few viewers, but it’s also pretty exciting. Each week is going to let us further pull back the curtain/duct tape on this fascinating and utterly terrifying man.
Did you tune in for The Assassination of Gianni Versace episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!