‘Dangerous Liaisons’ evaluate: A Starz sequence model ratchets up the sexual politics whereas dragging out the story


For an 18th-century French novel, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” actually obtained round, inspiring a play, the flicks “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Valmont” in 1988 and ’89, respectively, and the twisted teen variant “Cruel Intentions.” Now comes a Starz sequence prequel, “Dangerous Liaisons,” which ratchets up the intercourse whereas dragging out (and out and out) the story.

Though the present options lesser-known Australian leads in Nicholas Denton as Valmont, the roguish seductor, and Alice Englert (the daughter of acclaimed director Jane Campion) as Camille, his preliminary love and eventual foe, they’re surrounded by higher-profile gamers in supporting and in some situations short-lived roles. That forged contains “Phantom Thread’s” Lesley Manville and “Game of Thrones” alumni Carice Van Houten, Michael McElhatton and Tom Wlaschiha.

Set in Paris throughout the 1700s, the present once more lustily captures a time the place sexual adventures of every kind have been frequent but additionally probably ruinous if uncovered, and within the case of Valmont, deftly wielded like weapons of warfare as instruments of blackmail.

Camille learns that the onerous approach earlier than being taken below the wing of the rich Marquise de Merteuil (Manville), who counsels her to be taught from the older girl’s errors, urging her to “Avenge our sex,” and that on this iteration of the battle of the sexes, the stakes are “Conquer, or die.”

Tailored by author/producer Harriet Warner (“Call the Midwife”), for all its juicy bits the episodic format blunts the momentum of the story. Certainly, it’s not till the third episode that the plot really begins to kick in, with Camille difficult Valmont to woo the seemingly chaste and unmovable Jacqueline de Montrachet (Van Houten) – calling her “The one woman in Paris you can’t seduce” – for motives that can come into sight later.

Interval melodrama has change into a fertile subject, which seems to be a double-edged sword. Handsomely mounted, it’s nonetheless straightforward to dismiss “Dangerous Liaisons” (particularly for individuals who lack a previous funding within the property) as being a considerably edgier model of “Bridgerton” or less-comedic spin on “The Great,” each reveals that scratch related itches.

Against this, anybody with a keenness for the flicks (each the Glenn Shut/John Malkovich and Annette Bening/Colin Firth pairings are well worth the time), there’s a pallid high quality to this rendition, much less within the steaminess of the conditions than the extended approach they’re structured, even with shocking twists alongside the way in which.

Starz has wrung a good quantity of mileage out of costume dramas, with “The Serpent Queen” as the newest instance. In a vote of confidence, the community has already renewed “Dangerous Liaisons” for a second season prematurely of its premiere, so these hoping for the finality {that a} restricted sequence may need supplied, be forewarned.

Given the identifiable title and worldwide attraction, there’s maybe a bit much less threat in playing upon this idea, with its premium-TV sexuality filtered by the prism of 18th-century decadence.

That stated, not all the things is worthy of its personal cinematic universe. And whereas the principals’ acknowledged decisions is likely to be “conquer or die,” the sequence’ web impact lands someplace within the less-than-wholly-satisfying realm in between.

“Dangerous Liaisons” premieres November 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.