The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story S02E02 “Manhunt” Review
Director: Nelson Cragg
Starring: Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin
Writer: Tom Rob Smith
Review by Michael Walls-Kelly
I’m a serial killer.
The title of this episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story is a bit of a bait and switch. It seems like we’ll be covering more of the aftermath of the death of Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez). The actual manhunt for Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) will start to drive the narrative.
Surprisingly, after a post-death scene that shows us Versace being prepared for his funeral and the icy relationship between Donatella Versace (Penelope Cruz) and Antonio (Ricky Martin), Versace’s boyfriend. The show transports us to days before the killing. The titular “Manhunt” plays out in different ways in the two big storylines of the episode.
Andrew arrives in Miami, changing the license plates on his truck and already on the run from the FBI after committing four murders. Even more than the premiere, we get to know Andrew. I almost said that we delve into who he is as a person, but that really isn’t true at all. Except for a few looks in his eye, a desperate urge to meet Versace and an engrossing final scene, Andrew is still a mystery to us. The way that Andrew is presented in the show so far takes more than a few cues from American Psycho, which is a reasonable way to portray him. When you see him charm a hotel worker with such obvious lies, it’s hard not to feel like you’d at least partially fall for it as well. People, in general, don’t like calling seemingly polite folks out on their bullshit.
What’s interesting is when Andrew befriends Ronnie (Max Greenfield). They discuss their lives and whether or not they’ve lost people to the HIV/AIDS. Andrew tells Ronnie all about why he’s in Miami. He’s going to reconnect with Versace. They were engaged once, but it ended amicably, and they’re still friends. Ronnie clearly has a better bullshit detector than some others. He still finds Andrew entertaining and if Andrew’s willing to prostitute himself and share the profits, why not hang out with him?
A large focus of the episode is about living in the gay community in the ‘90s, specifically in Miami as well as abroad. Controversially, the series implies that Versace was HIV-positive — something that’s been denied by his family — which ties into Ronnie and Andrew’s story. Versace and Antonio deal with committing themselves to each other, which seems especially difficult in a world that won’t officially let them. While those with a much lower socioeconomic status contend with sex work. They live out of a motel or even just scoring something to feel good for a little while. It’s certainly covering a wide spectrum of issues within the gay community, which I assume will continue to be an undercurrent throughout the rest of the series.
Max Greenfield as Ronnie joins the ranks of David Schwimmer from American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson and Ricky Martin from this season as a nice surprise. Ronnie was likable and sympathetic, without us feeling sorry for him. When he parts ways with Andrew, I legitimately worried for his safety. He knows there’s something off with Andrew, but who can he go to? Like the man that Andrew picked up on the beach, there were barely any lifelines available for a closeted family man. Let alone a poor, HIV-positive drug user. The brief scene with the FBI coordinating with local cops showed how little they seem to care about catching a man whose victims might be gay. That a serial killer with four victims didn’t even seem close to their top priority is sad but not at all shocking.
Andrew Cunanan’s American Psycho-lite presentation is both aesthetically interesting and completely horrifying. The show seems to even quote Michael Mann’s Manhunter when Andrew emerges from the bathroom, face taped up like the man he picked up earlier. It’s important to display those awful elements and keep into perspective that, even though Andrew seems to be the centre of the series, he was a monster. The moments when he isn’t performing are morbidly intriguing. Darren Criss shines in every scene, but there’s something deeper when we see Andrew being Andrew. When he’s doggedly trying to track down Versace. Or, when he says this to a man at the club who just wanted to know what he does:
I’m a serial killer… I said, ‘I’m a banker’. I’m a stockbroker. I’m a shareholder. I’m a paperback writer. I’m a cop. I’m a naval officer. Sometimes I’m a spy. I build movie sets in Mexico and skyscrapers in Chicago. I sell propane in Minneapolis. I import pineapples from the Philippines. You know, I’m the person least likely to be forgotten. I’m Andrew Cunanan.
But the true heart of the show is Versace. Especially his relationship with Antonio. Ramirez is a ray of sunshine and does a fantastic job showing the difficulties of being an artist and the joy he wanted to send out into the world. Versace’s death was a loss to the world. This series is definitely showing us that.
Verdict: Keep watching. “Manhunt” had a lot of interesting, interpersonal drama as well as some big, standout setpieces. Andrew with the businessman and Andrew searching the club for Versace are both flashy and tense scenes. Versace’s fight with Donatella and, even more, his conversations with Antonio were played extremely well. The series continues to be acted and shot perfectly.