The Great Pretender

Makoto Edamura is a cocky young scam artist, but when he tries to con “tourist” Laurent Thierry, he not only ends up becoming the mark of a far better conman than himself, he also finds himself in way over his head as part of a complicated scheme to scam a brutal Hollywood drug lord. Seemingly always one step behind and struggling to keep up with the fast-moving developments, Makoto must somehow remain convincing in his part as a renegade Japanese chemist if he is to not only pull off the scam, but stay alive long enough to enjoy any ill-gotten gains. Throw in Laurent’s brooding, hostile sidekick Abbey, a bent LA cop, a crusading FBI agent, and a bodyguard who isn’t as thuggish as he looks, and the entire situation threatens to spin alarmingly out of control. And that’s before Makoto even has a chance to come to terms with the demons of his past: his memories of his cancer-ridden mother, who to her dying breath never stopped believing that he would come good; and of his hero-lawyer father who turned out to be far worse than a mere criminal…

Produced by Tokyo-based anime production house Wit Studio, and premiering on Japanese television in July 2020, “The Great Pretender” is a Netflix Original series that received its international premier on August 20, 2020. With a pop art aesthetic and a hip jazz-funk soundtrack reminiscent of the work of Yoko Kanno, “The Great Pretender” is a mix between “Hustle” and “The Odd Couple”, with pretensions to being a latter-day “Cowboy Bebop”. The 14 episodes that have aired to date are divided into three “cases”, each telling the story of a separate con. The writing is a deft blend of anarchic comedy and complex intrigue; and while the well-worn trope of the “gentleman con-man” who only targets evil rich people has been done to death, the main characters are all sufficiently three dimensional, with convincingly detailed back-stories, to make it worth our while investing in them. The only exception is Laurent, whose opaque suaveness and preternatural intelligence make him appear flat and one dimensional – perhaps the new “case”, scheduled to premiere in the near future, will correct this deficiency. Nonetheless, “The Great Pretender” is both gorgeous to look at, and an engagingly fun jaunt on the wild side.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.