HBO’s ‘The Deuce’ deals in drugs, prostitution and porn amid the hustle of ’70s Times Square – Orange County Register

In the early 1970s, out-of-towners would wander into New York City’s Times Square expecting to see the glory days they’d seen in old movies. What they were met with was a rundown, trash-filled nightmare of its former self, filled with hustlers, hookers, pimps, adult sex stores, drugs and violence.

HBO’s gritty ensemble drama “The Deuce,” from David Simon and George Pelecanos, is set around that seedy area in 1971. The story introduces us to twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino (both played by James Franco). Vince is a bartender with a philandering wife (Zoe Kazan), which sends him packing from home to a 42nd Street flophouse.

The impulsive Frankie’s gambling debts will lead them into the shady business of opening a bar with a mobster (Michael Rispoli). Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the many people who spend their time around “The Deuce,” the nickname for 42nd Street.

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a prostitute named Eileen. She calls herself Candy when she’s working, and unlike the others in her profession she doesn’t have a manager – that is, a controlling pimp. We know that she’s cleverer than most, has a young son who lives with her mother, and something of a heart.

The pimps who control the prostitutes include the violent Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe) who runs street-smart Darlene (Dominique Fishback), Rodney (Cliff “Method Man” Smith) and C.C. (Gary Carr), who handles Lori (Emily Meade), a 20-year-old fresh off a Greyhound from Minnesota. The managers coolly discuss the industry and opportunities among themselves like they work on Wall Street.

Most nights, the police do perfunctory raids to keep up their arrest records. The story focuses on beat cops Flanagan (Don Harvey) and Alston (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), who hooks up with a reporter, Sandra (Natalie Paul), who becomes interested in the call girls.

Some people know exactly what Time Square has to offer. A “respected” high school biology teacher turns up dead after trying to kidnap a hooker, and some people are intrigued by the low life, like Abby (Margarita Leviev) student-turned-barmaid.

By now you may be wondering what “The Deuce” the series is going for here. There are only eight episodes so don’t expect a lot of conclusions. Simon and Pelecanos have opened a lot of avenues. One is straight toward the porn industry.

At the time, adult movies were mostly underground or under the counter. This was a year before the film “Deep Throat.” Candy grows…

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