Gang Related: TV review

There's an interesting show buried somewhere in Fox's gritty new drama, but an uncharismatic main character and lack of focus turn this into another toothless cable copycat

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RZA as Cassius Green and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Inbar Lavi as Vee, Sung Kang as Tae, Terry O'Quinn as Sam Chapel and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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RZA as Cassius Greene in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez and Cliff Curtis as Javier Acosta in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Sung Kang as Tae, Inbar Lavi as Vee, RZA as Cassius and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan in Gang Related

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Jay Hernandez as Daniel Acosta and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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RZA as Cassius Green and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

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Cliff Curtis as Javier Acosta, Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez and Terry O'Quinn as Sam Chapel in Gang Related

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Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez and RZA as Cassius Green in Gang Related

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Terry O'Quinn as Sam Chapel, Sung Kang as Tae, RZA as Cassius and Ramon Rodriguez as Ryan Lopez in Gang Related

Premieres Thursday, May 22 at 8pm on FOX.

When it comes to drama on Fox, grit seems to be the watchword, though it hasn't always lead to success. While grimy serial killer series The Following worked out well for them, the anti-hero-lead drama Rake was a giant flop. In its latest police procedural, the writer of several Fast & Furious films tries to bring dirty cops to network TV and he's unable to crack the cable code.

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LAPD officer Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez) isn't all he appears to be. While he spends his days working with an elite task force comprised of representatives from various law enforcement agencies to ride the city of gangs and drugs, he answers to someone else. Since he was a boy, Ryan has been looked after by Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), the patriarch of the Los Angelicos gang. Every aspect of Ryan's career has been dictated by Acosta, who uses the information his surrogate son provides to avoid the cops and to get a leg up on his competition. Acosta tells Ryan—who feels a kinship to his partners in the task force—that it's all a means to an end, a stepping stone towards the family leaving crime behind and moving on to legitimate businesses.

There are few moments in Gang Related that don't beg comparisons to FX's The Shield. Unfortunately, as with Rake, Gang Related fails to live up to the uncompromising nature of its cable predecessors, coming off as a watered down copy. For starters, Ryan Lopez is no Vic Mackey. Aside from a brief hint a darker side the closing moments of the premiere, Ryan is primarily presented as a boring boy scout of a cop, who's only now realizing that informing for Los Angelicos could actually lead to people getting hurt. What's worse, he has teammates in the task force whose actions seem far dirtier. Hard-ass Vee (Inbar Lavi) is seen taking a taser to an informant's junk and openly planting evidence in the first episode, without any of her colleagues giving her the slightest resistance. It muddles the morality of the show without raising any interesting questions about the difference between Ryan's two worlds.

Featuring a sprawling ensemble that includes the Acosta family, the task force and a defense attorney that works with them, Gang Related often feels unfocused, frequently ignoring seemingly significant characters. A brief altercation in the second episode between Acosta and the task force leader, Sam Chapel (Terry O'Quinn), is the high point of the series so far. Had the show anchored itself around Ryan's struggle to maintain his loyalty to these two father figures (both of whom have complicated relationship with their biological children, as well), it could have been far more relatable. Sadly, the talented O'Quinn is used largely as an exposition machine, delivering briefings to his team for their drab case-of-the-week antics.

 

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