Title: Kaleidoscope (2023) Director: Robert Townsend (and others) Writers: Eric Garcia Studio: Scott Free Productions // Netflix IMDb Plot: Centered around the largest heist ever attempted, the vengeance and betrayals that surround it. Joe Says: The conceit of Kaleidoscope, is that the color-coded episodes are strong enough to stand on their own and can be watched in any order. And the conceit works. Kaleidoscope is an immensely enjoyable, fun, hip thriller. However. Having the episodes run in a set order would have made the show even more captivating and more memorable.
The conceit of Netflix’s new anthology-like crime series, Kaleidoscope, is that the color-coded episodes are strong enough to stand on their own and can be watched in any order. Someone might start with “Pink” while the next door neighbor might begin with “Green”. Netflix has the programming set up to randomize that initial order – but everyone ends with “White”. White, of course, being the combination of all colors in the kaleidoscopic spectrum. And the conceit works. Kaleidoscope is an immensely enjoyable, fun, hip thriller.
Having the episodes run linearly instead? Kaleidoscope would have been even more captivating.
Created by Eric Garica, author of the book Matchstick Men that was adapted by Ridley Scott, Kaleidoscope is the adventurous tale of a team of safe-cracking misfits who break into an unbreakable vault under the cover of Hurricane Sandy. More than a heist, the story is also about revenge. And, believe it or not, the things we all do for love.
Giancarlo Esposito plays Leo, the criminal mastermind, who targets super-snot Rufus Sewell, a fantastic actor who always plays the perfect super-snot, and the riches within his super-vault. Paz Vega, Jai Courtney, and Peter Mark Kendall round out Leo’s team, each of them seeking something more than material wealth. Kaleidoscope documents their journey both before and after the caper over the course of eight episodes often using different viewpoints until, like the tumblers of a combination, the story finally clicks into place.
Eric Garcia and his writing team do deliver. Although catch up is part of the game, especially as dynamics are discovered in whatever episodes are first viewed, each of the characters are strong and the writing is top notch, inventive, and wholly entertaining.
Watching episodes out of order does a disservice to individual character arcs. Having the series presented linearly – or at least in a set order – would certainly give a deeper gravitas to various decisions and resolutions. Seeing a character – perhaps – meet their demise in “Pink” would have been devastatingly more powerful if watched as a later episode, and not as an intro to the series. In fact, “Pink” is hands down the worst episode to watch first. “Yellow,” where Leo and team first pull a job in New York’s diamond district, makes for a good entry.
Produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and directed by Robert Townsend with others, each episode has a special look where the color is highlighted throughout. The eps all move to a groove that is both formulaic and pleasing. Dominic Lewis provides a fresh, jazzy score that needs to be mentioned – and listened to – as it weaves in-and-out of the almost-constant needle drops while holding everything together.
Kaleidoscope is a good experiment where the boastfully-good writing does deliver over a potentially-silly premise. As with all good heists, it successfully steals our valuable time.
A version of this review is available on Cinefied.com