A Man in Full is buckets of fun but Charlie Crocker is missing something - TV Review

A Man in Full, Netflix

Jeff Daniels as Charlie Croker in episode  Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
Jeff Daniels as Charlie Croker (COURTESY OF NETFLIX)

Charlie Crocker, the lead character in A Man in Full, is the epitome of crony capitalism.

He’s the horrible underbelly where money and success meets politics and back slapping.

After the success of The Bonfire of the Vanities, novelist Tom Wolfe wanted to have another slap at the ego of the super-rich and created Crocker.

Wolfe moves the action from New York to the south and Alabama, where the powerful dress in cowboy hats and entertain their guests and business partners on hunting trips.

A Man in Full has finally been adapted for television, but it’s missing the full glory of our anti-hero.

Crocker’s preening pomposity can best be described as a mix of Francis Underwood and Donald Trump.

In House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character is hateful, but he’s also cunning and brilliant. He’s respected and feared.

In the Netflix mini-series, Crocker is a joke. He’s ridiculously over the top, with even his own family thinking that his schemes are ridiculous.

Crocker can’t even woo a potential investor in his business, a ‘white knight’ who might help to save him from the clutches of the banks who are looking for their billion dollars back.

Jeff Daniels as Charlie Croker, Sarah Jones as Serena Croker. Mark Hill/Netflix © 202
Charlie Croker with his wife Serena (Sarah Jones) (MARK HILL/NETFLIX)

The king of Atlanta brings the city liberal and his PETA member wife to his country hunting mansion, expecting to impress them with his machismo.

His wife and son warn him, but Crocker persists. He accepts he can’t bring the potential investor hunting, so instead he takes him to see his prize mare being covered by a stallion. The investor’s horrified wife describes it as a “rape scene” and they demand to leave immediately.

Croker is desperate for investment after a devastating meeting at his bank. He’s been set up by a former employee and walks into an ambush.

As he celebrates his 60th birthday, he’s met with the full reality of a bank that’s sick of his ducking and calls in its loans. He owes them $800m, while $400m is outstanding to another bank.

The bank meeting is central to the action as Crocker faces off against bank executive Harry Zale, who’s determined that Crocker finally faces the music.

Behemoths of their worlds, their clash is like a verbal sumo match as they trade downhome advice and outlandish insults.

Crocker gives some old school direction about life as a male.

Tom Pelphrey as Raymond Peepgrass, Bill Camp as Harry Zale. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
The banking team: Tom Pelphrey as Raymond Peepgrass, Bill Camp as Harry Zale (COURTESY OF NETFLIX)

“A man’s got to shake his balls,” he offers as an opening gambit before things get serious.

When he’s riled he gets more aggressive and moves to a hunting metaphor.

“When the tailgate drops the bull***t stops,” he spits from one end of a long conference table.

Zale meets his aggression and doubles it. “I’m talking to a s**thead,” he announces to the table of advisers, nobody else uttering a syllable.

Then he asks Crocker and his party, including his young and very attractive wife, to leave the room so that they can have a “cactus”.

“Don’t you mean a caucus?” asks Crocker in his best southern drawl.

“No,” says Zale. “It’s a cactus – all the pricks are on the outside.”

And for the uppercut he hits Crocker with this as the bank client complains about Zane’s language in front of his wife: “Maybe next time leave the missus back home in the trophy case,” he barks as he smashes the door closed behind them.

It’s good stuff and there’s plenty of fun to be had, but there’s something missing with A Man in Full.

The screenplay being updated by a few decades bringing the action into modern America may be the problem, but I think the central difficulty is that there’s nothing redeeming about Crocker. Unlike Frank Underwood, there’s nothing to admire and little to root for.