‘Culprits’ Review — Nathan Stewart-Jarrett Steals Hearts in Twisty Thriller

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Culprits is a blood-soaked heist series with a twist, featuring a stacked cast of characters and an unpredictable storyline.
  • The show’s timeline structure, alternating between past and present, can make it difficult to follow and understand the motivations of the characters.
  • Despite some flaws, Culprits is a morbidly fascinating series that keeps viewers hooked with its suspenseful storytelling and unreliable narrator.


If audiences love nothing else, it’s heist stories. The intricate puzzle of getting in and getting out without being seen — or more importantly, caught. They make up some of the greatest films of our time, and yet there still seems to be no shortage of them, with each new filmmaker trying their hand at coming up with a slightly different safe for their characters to crack. The same is the case with Hulu’s latest offering Culprits, a blood-soaked series full of twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing until the last minute.

Culprits

After a heist, the crew have gone their separate ways, but now, they are being targeted by a killer one-by-one.

Release Date
December 8, 2023

Cast
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kirby, Kevin Vidal, Ned Dennehy

Main Genre
Comedy

Genres
Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
1

Told in two intertwining timelines — the present, moving forward normally, and the past, revealing bits and pieces of information out of order — Culprits follows David (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a young man living a double life after a heist gone wrong. Previously a career criminal hired to steal $30 million by the mysterious Dianne Harewood (Gemma Arterton), he now lives in America under a fake identity, trying to lead a normal life with his fiancé and soon-to-be stepchildren. But when danger comes calling as the members of the heist are killed one by one, it’s up to David to get the gang back together before it’s too late.


The Cast of ‘Culprits’ Is a Killer Gang of Stars

The show has a fabulously stacked cast of characters on its hands — my personal favorites include Vincent Hawkes, with Eddie Izzard doing her usual trick of sweeping the feet out from under everyone she shares a scene with, and Specialist (Niamh Alger), a psychopathic trained killer who’s exactly as nasty as she looks. Kirby Howell-Baptiste also knocks it out of the park as Officer, the only person who manages to truly get close to David, and I’d be remiss if I omitted Ned Dennehy, the Good Omens star who’s terrifyingly unrecognizable as the killer methodically hunting down the crew one by one.

But none hit higher highs and more unsettling lows than Stewart-Jarrett as David. I’ve been following the star’s career since I fell in love with Misfits in middle school — a show I almost certainly shouldn’t have been watching at that age — and he’s only been on an upward trajectory since. It’s thrilling to see him in a role that gives him plenty of scenery to chew. He’s a magnetic force of nature as his luck turns sour, morphing quickly from a well-adjusted family man to a cold-blooded killer willing to do anything to protect himself and the rest of his crew, who may or may not be willing to do the same.

His relationship with Officer is particularly touching, with their relationship anchoring the emotional core of the series (arguably more than David’s relationship with his fiancé, barely consequential despite his fierce protection of him). Howell-Baptiste is slick and clever compared to Stewart-Jarrett’s brute force — his codename isn’t Muscle for nothing — and together they make the perfect team, saving each other even when it means putting themselves in the line of fire. They give up almost everything for each other, even when betrayal creeps into the picture, and it’s hard not to root for Officer’s strategy of disappearing the both of them, the rest of the world be damned.

‘Culprits’ Fails to Give All the Right Story Details

Where the series falters is its Reservoir Dogs-esque method of approaching the story itself. The disparate threads of separate timelines make the show (or, at least, its vital details) difficult to follow — and that’s saying something, coming from someone who’s memorized most of the canon of Doctor Who. Detailing the heist in reverse as the present-day timeline moves forward is like an express service train speeding past stations, zipping by bits and pieces key to making me sympathize with Harewood and her crew, and vice versa for the one they’re after.

Because of that, the series undercuts itself in its final act, landing at a big, bombastic conclusion that isn’t emotionally satisfying. There’s key information missing, the puzzle pieces that would’ve made me understand the crew’s motivation in the first place hiding under some writer’s kitchen table, only to be found years after the fact. Guns are fired and everything slots into place, but I still feel empty, like the abandoned ticket hall David and his fellow criminals find themselves in episode eight.

Maybe that’s also partially the fault of Arterton, who seems miscast in the role of Harewood. Sure, she’s meant to be an ice queen crime boss, but she also feels hollow, like Arterton failed to give her any sense of a personality or free will beyond her desire to take down a mystery nemesis. Combine that with the fact that audiences learn so little about her until the back half of the series, and it makes me wish they’d cast someone with more panache, who could make minimal screen time worth their while instead of feeling like an unnecessary addition to an already over-stuffed cast.

As a result, the series is disconnected, two halves of differing stories linked together, but it’s nothing if not morbidly fascinating. The confusion almost serves the binge-watching format, leaving you hanging so you’re tempted to watch “just one more” to figure out what happens next. It’s always got the upper hand, even if its protagonists don’t, and though the ultimate prize at the end turns out to be a disappointment, the journey to get there is still one to watch. Culprits never plays its full hand, not even with David, creating an unreliable narrator for a modern age where neither technology can be trusted nor the ones you love the most.

Rating: B

Culprits is available to stream on Hulu in the U.S. starting December 8.

WATCH ON HULU



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