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The British-American-Canadian co-production of "McMafia" brings to life the bestselling book, "McMafia: A Journey Through The Global Criminal Underworld" by Misha Glenny. The show is produced by the BBC, AMC, and Cuba Pictures under the leadership of the Academy Award-nominated writer and showrunner Hossein Amini.
The mini-series has already been commissioned for the second installment of eight episodes following the actions of the Godman family who have been working to shed their ties to the Russian mafia. The Godman family initially built their wealth on a series of criminal actions based around the work of a number of contacts around the world who keep them in the world of drug and people trafficking.
Investment banker, Alex Godman has little idea of the path his family took to their wealth, which allowed him the privileges of a British boarding school education before he headed to the U.S. to study finance at Harvard. Alex is living a comfortable life in London with his family, Rebecca when his Uncle is assassinated and reveals cracks in the history of the family. Alex quickly sets out on a journey to discover the truth about his family and uncover the truth about the history of their vast wealth.
Alex is soon approached by Semyon, an Israeli politician who has been following the problems facing the Godman family as the well-known mobster Vadim tries to unsettle their powerful organization. Semyon has his own reasons for playing a role in the battle between the Godman family and Vadim as he has been trying to maneuver himself into the orbit of the Godman's to latch onto their powerful history.
The death of his uncle leaves Alex and the rest of his family without a figurehead to lead the Godman's into the future which leaves Alex in a position he never imagined he would find himself in. Despite his history in the financial sector, Alex is shocked to work alongside Semyon and discover how easy it is for an assassin in India to be paid for their work when a hedge fund in the U.K. purchases stock elsewhere and a chain of events are set into motion takin the money towards its intended target.
The plot takes Alex and Semyon around the world to detail how the fake handbags and accessories s=old in the markets of Morocco are linked to drug dealers and criminal gangs stretching from the Middle East, Europe, and India. As he makes his way across the world looking to find a way of repaying the debt his family now owes the mysterious Vadim, Alex hides the new aspect of his life from his family and girlfriend. However, he suddenly comes to realize just how involved his uncle and the Russian mafia have been in the life he and his family now lead. The question facing Alex as the first season progresses is who can he trust, including his own father who is convinced the best course of action is to work with his old contacts in the Russian mafia.
"McMafia" was created by writer and showrunner, Hossein Amini, an Iranian-born British producer and writer who is most famous for his 1997 adaptation of "Wings of the Dove." Following his Oscar nomination for "Wings of the Dove," Amini has spent his time working in both TV and film with his 2011 adaptation of the novel, "Drive" winning him the Best Screenplay from the Austin Film Critics Association. A critically-acclaimed adaptation of the John Le Carre novel, "Our Kind of Traitor" followed in 2016 before the latest adaptation of "McMafia" continued his impressive work.
Each episode of "McMafia" was directed by English director, James Watkins who has an extensive resume in both film and TV. Perhaps best known for his work with Daniel Radcliffe on the critically-acclaimed adaptation of "The Woman in Black," Watkins has also directed episodes of the cult anthology series, "Black Mirror."
The classically-trained actor, James Norton takes the pivotal role of Alex Godson in "McMafia" which continued his impressive rise to prominence as a leading man. Norton was trained at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts in the U.K. After taking various roles in U.K.-based series such as "Doctor Who" and "Death Comes to Pemberley," Norton had a breakout year in 2014 when he was given the roles of Sydney Chambers in "Grantchester" and Tommy Lee Royce in "Happy Valley." Winning a BAFTA award for his "Happy Valley" role, many critics claimed his performance in "McMafia" had pushed him to the fore as producers searched for a new James Bond to replace the outgoing Daniel Craig.
Although the series is classed as being based on the book McMafia" it uses only a few stories from the tracking of money laundering around the world to hang its story on. The show has been in production since 2015 when it was announced as a partnership production between the BBC, AMC, and Cuba Pictures replicating the success of "The Night Manager" made by the same partners.
Like the stories the show is based on taking place in various countries around the world, the production reflected the globe-trotting nature of the book by pushing the characters into different locations. Among the countries used as a backdrop to the series are Egypt, Belize, Turkey, the U.K., Israel, and India.
The critical response to "McMafia" has been largely positive with the show receiving plaudits from critics in publications such as "The Guardian" and "Variety." The lavish production and visual flair of the show have been praised by many with the only complaints coming from those who found the focus on the relationships of the Alex Godson character a little stilted and dull. Despite the large cost of the show, several million dollars were spent for each episode, the BBC has already commissioned a second season of eight episodes to be filmed in 2019 and broadcast in the U.K. in 2020.
The first season of "McMafia" focuses on the sections of the book by journalist, Misha Glenny involving the Russian Mafia. Particularly the stories detailing the fact the different gangs in the Mafia will often allow smaller criminal groups to borrow their name for a rental fee to increase the level of intimidation they provide. The term "McMafia" is said to come from the comparison of the largest Mob groups to the McDonald's hamburger chain which outperforms competitors because of its name recognition and sheer size.