Reason: A criminal gang takes two women and their guests hostage as they seek shelter in a remote paradise, where secrets, betrayal and lust bubble to the surface as everyone awaits their fate.

Review: Never underestimate a well-planned heist. A masterfully constructed plan, whether it goes awry or not, is always a sight to behold. Like a Rube-Goldberg Device or carefully arranged rows of dominoes, I crave a good heist story. Over the years, film and television have played home to stellar examples of this, but many are focused on trying to improve on what came before rather than reveling in the story itself. Sebastian Gutierrez’s latest project, the Peacock original series Leopard skinis a prime example of the pulpy fun you can get out of a heist and its aftermath by pitting a group of characters against each other with only the prospect of survival driving them. Leopard skin is like a game of Clue, but much sexier.

Unfolds like the drug-addled love child of Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, Leopard skin opens with the stunning scenery of a secluded beach in Mexico. Right from the start, we know that this series is going to focus on beauty, both in geography as well as physical. Without missing a beat, we’re thrown into the narrative without much orientation, a deliberate approach that immediately makes us curious about who these characters are as much as it does trying to figure out what’s going on . We first meet Carla Gugino (Gutierrez’s real-life partner and frequent collaborator), the resident of the home that will be the center of this story. As Alba Fontana, Gugino brings her signature sultry voice to a character who initially seems stoic until we begin to learn more about her as the series unfolds. Alba lives in the house with Batty Ferreira (Gaite Jansen), and at first their relationship is as much a mystery as anything else.

It is the mysterious nature of this whole ensemble that drives Leopard skin. From former maid Inocencia (Ana de la Reguera) to the lively Maru (The Ghost of Bly Manor‘s Amelia Eve) to the thieves who ruin their lives, including Sierra Loba (Nora Arnezeder) and Clover Braun (Margot Bingham), this series is never shy about appreciating the physical beauty of this cast. It’s not just relegated to the female cast, as documentarian Max Hammond (Philp Winchester) and thief Fausto Malone (Gentry White) have their fair share of eye-popping moments. There’s also a great performance from Jeffrey Dean Morgan as LaSalle, the mastermind behind the whole heist. In fact, it’s in Morgan’s first scene that we learn a lot about what Leopard skin is and is not.

Presented in a Miami hotel room bathed in red and blue light, LaSalle coolly explains the plan for the heist at the center of this story. But when he talks about the players and the rules of the game, the person he’s talking about switches between multiple characters. It’s a delicately structured sequence that plays with the convention of who knows what’s going on, and whether we as an audience even know how much the characters understand about their situation. It’s a perfect example of what Gutierrez delivers throughout the series. Shifting the timeline back and forth and peppering incongruous moments that might mean more than you first think, Leopard Skin often feels like a sexy film noir paired with a David Lynch sensibility. But instead of Lynch’s lens of body horror, we instead get Gutierrez’s eye to capture desire and emotion.

Sebastian Gutierrez has always been able to present female-centric stories across all genres with casts of strong, diverse actors who imbue his films and series with an appreciation of sex, never using it as an element of shame or degradation. From horror (She-Being) for camp and comedy (Women in trouble and Elektra Luxx) to the underrated crime series Jett, Gutierrez knows how to allow the actresses in his films to own their screen presence and subtly dig into the psychology of their actions while still making them look damn good. What does Leopard skin so interesting to see is how the structure of the series completely defies convention. It’s not common to see a dramatic tale like this released in half-hour chapters, but it keeps the pace moving and the mystery present.

Peacocks, Leopard skin, Carla Gugino

Leopard skin is a puzzle filled with clues that lead to discovery, while others are red herrings that build tension between the characters. It’s also a mystery that doesn’t necessarily have to be solved. I’m sure some viewers will be confused by this, but I found it held my attention and held it for all eight episodes. Whether you ultimately buy into this story may not matter, as it’s visually charged, intellectually rewarding, and sexy as hell. Sebastian Gutierrez knows how to shoot a sex scene in a way that is both erotic and engrossing, and these may be two of the best words to describe Leopard Skin as a series.

Leopard skin is now streaming on Peacock.




Leopard Skin TV review

WELL

7

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