‘American Gigolo’ Review: Jon Bernthal Stars in a Showtime Reboot, But This Call Isn’t Worth Answering

Adapted into serial form by David Hollander, who subsequently left the project, the mix of flash and trash in and around sunny Southern California makes the producer’s last stop for Showtime, “Ray Donovan”, almost upbeat and cheerful in comparison. (Nikki Toscano, of Paramount’s “The Offer,” took over as showrunner.)

Julian van Bernthal is released after 15 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and at first seems indifferent to who framed him, despite the urging of the detective (Rosie O’Donnell, just one of the misguided co- stars) that helped him put away.

“Don’t you want to know what happened?” she asks.

Then and now, “American Gigolo” uses the familiar device of jumping back and forth in time, including Julian’s entry into the sex-for-money business as a teenager, led by a lady (Sandrine Holt) who exuberantly hosts pool parties overlooking the ocean.

There’s a leathery aspect to the sexuality in the series that sometimes confuses ‘ick’ with ‘edgy’, made worse by the fact that it involves minors. That’s not helped by the suspense of Julian getting back into the sex business, which, as the flashbacks make clear, is the only company he really knows.

Since “The Walking Dead”, Bernthal has played several tough roles, including Marvel’s floundering “The Punisher”, “The Many Saints of Newark” and most recently the fact-based HBO crime drama “We Own This City”. Here he can show off a more vulnerable side, but Julian is such a tightly wounded, impenetrable character that it’s hard to worry about his fate, despite attempts by the likes of his former colleague Lorenzo (Wayne Brady, again somewhat incongruous , as an adult) to pull him out of his shell.

“American Gigolo” does its best to keep layers on the mystery, like the film noir of the past, with the detective at one point telling Julian that he’s “like the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ of f-ing crime scene” as new victims fall.

The key to ‘Where’s Waldo?’, of course, is that you want to make an effort to find him. “American Gigolo” tries to give a boost, but after the quick cut as Debbie Harry pulls out that title track, the tendency is to say “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

“American Gigolo” will premiere on Showtime’s streaming service on September 9 and on Showtime on September 11 at 9 p.m. ET.