Darren Criss Delivers Performance of The Year in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Review)

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The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story from FX, producer Ryan Murphy and writer Tom Rob Smith has concluded it’s 9-episode run starring Darren CrissÉdgar RamírezRicky MartinPenélope CruzCody FernJudith LightFinn Wittrock and Max Greenfield. Here is my review:

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The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story explores the murder of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, based on Maureen Orth‘s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.


I was not familiar with the details surrounding the mid-90’s murder of Gianni Versace and I did not fact check ANYTHING while watching ACS Versace. Much to my surprise – this story was INSANE. Literally one of the most impressive and profound true stories about a man’s descent into madness. Darren Criss’ performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan is legendary. Think American Psycho meets Taxi Driver and we’re starting to get the whole picture here. Criss deserves every single acting award coming his way. There will not be a better acting performance in 2018 or maybe even years from now that can match the intensity and sadness that Criss has put on display here in these nine incredible episodes.

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I know that the title of the series has Versace in it, but American Crime Story is all about Andrew Cunanan. We dive deep into the psyche of a killer and although we will never know WHY he did what he did, you will damn sure have a better understanding what led Cunanan down this path of death. Writer Tom Rob Smith doesn’t sympathise with Cunanan so much as peel back the layers of mystery of his life, so that viewers get the entire story, including that of his victims who all deserved to have their stories told in a profound way. Cody Fern for example — is a future star. Watch for that kid to do some amazing things down the road. Ryan Murphy stuck to his guns by casting Criss, known for Glee and his work in music and that decision turned out to be one of the best casting decisions of all time for the smallscreen. Hell – Ricky Martin could get an award too for playing Versace’s lover – those scenes in the finale – in the church? Unreal.

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Following up the OJ Simpson mini-series was a huge undertaking, but I honestly think that ACS Versace was a sprawling and epic drama that did a better job getting into the mindset of everyone involved in this sweeping tragedy. Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz literally BECAME Gianni and Donatella Versace, not only in their physical appearances, but the accent and essence of these fashion icons. We do delve into the Versace family for a while and it’s very intriguing, but the split of the show does feel like a 90-10% split with Cunanan and his other victims’ storylines taking up most of the screentime. I’m not complaining though – I’m obsessed with true crime and serial killers (last year’s Mindhunter was made for me), so having more time dedicated to understanding what may have drove Cunanan to murder was the right choice.

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From the opening episode which shows the murder of Versace, to the final episode which wraps up all the loose ends in devastating fashion, ACS Versace might be the best mini-series yet from Ryan Murphy. And I’m including American Horror Story in that declaration. Darren Criss BECAME Andrew Cunanan for this role. You will not see a better character study of a serial killer than you will here. These nine episodes are constantly jumping back and forth in time (which I’m told may have turned off some viewers with its sporadic story structure) but I think that was the correct choice to take people on a better emotional journey. If we were to have told this story chronologically — I don’t think it would have captured our attention. The sporadic narrative was a necessary evil in order to uncover the essence of Cunanan’s insanity. There’s a monologue in the finale where Max Greenfield tells the police that Andrew isn’t hiding – he’s wanting to be seen and it really does sum up what happened with the botched investigation and pursuit of Cunanan in general. He was a gay man, killing other gay men — so law enforcement didn’t give a shit back then. Plain and simple – sad but true.

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The glorification of serial killers isn’t what we were going for here and by the end of the series — Cunanan is most certainly not celebrated in any way whatsoever, but I do feel like Criss’ performance is culturally one of the most significant and impressive acting performances of our time. Whether he’s seducing older men with his IDGAF dance moves in a speedo, or when he’s wrapping tape around his face while having a shower – Criss is doing something unlike any other character in years. He’s bizarre, scary and at times – enigmatic. The episode in which he shows up to a party, rips off his trenchcoat to reveal that red leather suit and struts right into that house like a boss – is one of the best scenes of 2018. Andrew just wanted to be remembered and although the murderer will likely fade into obscurity, I hope that Criss’ iconic performance stands the test of time. It’s that good.

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