‘Tulsa King’: Stallone doin’ fine in Oklahoma as a transplanted N.Y. mobster

Movie star is perfectly suited for the instantly engrossing Paramount+ series from the creator of ‘Yellowstone.’

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Fresh from prison, veteran mob capo Dwight Manfredi is dispatched to Oklahoma to run new territory in “Tulsa King.”

Paramount+

“Let me paint you a picture. You see my shoe? Now, I’m going take the heel of my right shoe, which is very sharp, and stomp it very had on the top of your left foot, breaking at least three or four metatarsals. It’s excruciating, I don’t want to do it, so let me ask you again…” – Representative sampling of the type of dialogue Sylvester Stallone’s Dwight Manfredi engages in every day.

In the premiere episode of the instantly engrossing, darkly funny and dramatically impactful mob drama “Tulsa King” on Paramount+, Sylvester Stallone’s Dwight “The General” Manfredi initiates three separate confrontations — winning two by knockout, the other by T.K.O.

Rocky can still pack a punch. And even though Stallone is 76 and the character he’s playing is 75, we have absolutely no problem believing this guy can level men half his age with a single blow (or, in one case, by hurling a metal juice container at an overmatched security guard).

‘Tulsa King’

Untitled

A new episode streams each Sunday on Paramount+

With the prolific and greatly talented Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone,” “1883,” “Mayor of Kingstown”) writing the pilot and the Emmy-winning Terence Winter (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire”) taking the reins as showrunner, “Tulsa King” is a classic fish-out-of- water story that plays to Stallone’s strengths.

Stallone has played myriad tough guys, soldiers, cops and criminals over his 50-year career. But he’s never played a mob boss — until now.

The result is the perfect marriage of actor and material, with Stallone relying on his trademark formula of charisma, intimidating physicality and clever dialogue uttered in a low, often self-deprecating growl.

“Tulsa King” opens with Stallone’s mob capo about to be released from captivity. “This is USP Canaan, a federal prison in northern Pennsylvania,” he tells us in voice-over. “Definitely not a great choice for a destination wedding. I subsisted in hellholes like this for the last 25 years, and, to keep what’s left of my brain from deteriorating, I read some very good books and wrote some very bad poems and tried to avoid getting shanked for a second time.”

In the foreground of Dwight’s cell, we see a stack of titles, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust,” Nietzche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” and Robert Green’s “The Laws of Human Nature.” Way to tackle some challenging material, Dwight! I was thinking he was reading the likes of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” but Dwight ain’t messing around.

Dwight expects a big party at the Scores strip club in New York City, a hero’s welcome and a high-ranking position with his old outfit. Instead, he finds himself in a house in the sticks that looks like it could be down the block from the Sopranos’ family manse, getting the news that times have changed, there’s no longer a place for Dwight here, and he’s being assigned to the wide-open, new territory of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Go west, old man!

Cue up “Too Much Whiskey” by Marcus King as Dwight and the series relocate to Oklahoma. (The show was filmed in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas.)

It takes about 15 minutes for Dwight to make his presence known in Tulsa. He hires a cabbie named Tyson (Jay Will) as his full-time driver and assistant, and he offers “protection” to a cash-cow marijuana dispensary managed by Martin Starr’s Bodhi in exchange for 20% of the shop’s earnings.

He also becomes friends with a fellow ex-con, Garrett Hedlund’s Mitch, who runs a bar called the “Bred2Buck Saloon.” He even hooks up with an attractive, 50ish woman who is going through a divorce. Only after they sleep together does she realize Dwight might be older than “the hard 55” she had him pegged.

“How old are you?” she asks.

“Why don’t you just just say, ‘Hey, Dwight, where were you when JFK got assassinated?’ ”

“All right. Where the f--- were you?”

“I was a senior in high school.”

“Seriously? That would make you …”

“Seventy-five.”

You’ve never seen a woman move so quickly to gather her things and say goodnight, much to Dwight’s amusement.

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An ATF agent (Andrea Savage) wonders what Dwight is doing in town.

Paramount+

Dwight isn’t the most subtle of operators, and his movements attract the attention of an old associate, as well as the feds. The always wonderful Andrea Savage plays an ATF agent who becomes aware Dwight is in town and is determined to find out why, even as Domenick Lombardozzi’s Don “Chickie” Invernizzi, who’s running things back East, keeps tabs on Dwight.

“Tulsa King” also has the almost obligatory story of Dwight’s family, including an ex-wife who wants nothing to do with him and a daughter with whom he hasn’t spoken in 18 years.

Muscle and heart. That’s always been the classic one-two combo for Sylvester Stallone.

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