The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Review: FX’s True Crime Drama Is Addictive And Unsettling

andrew cunanan darren criss assassination of gianni versace
(Image credit: Image courtesy of FX)

One of the most highly-anticipated series of 2018 has to be The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. The first chapter of the American Crime Story anthology series covered the events of the O.J. Simpson murder trial and was a huge hit with viewers and critics alike. The pressure is on for The Assassination of Gianni Versace to match the quality of The People v. O.J. Simpson. Luckily, the new chapter of the anthology is a worthy successor to The People v. O.J. Simpson, and it's as addictive as it is unsettling as it chronicles the events leading up to the assassination of Gianni Versace.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace covers the before, during, and after of Gianni Versace's murder by spree killer Andrew Cunanan on the steps of Versace's South Beach residence back in 1997. The case itself is famous and the show doesn't dance around delivering the ugly deed. While the big death happens relatively early on, Versace's end is only the starting point for the way the show is telling this story. Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) targets world-renowned fashion designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) at his home, and his death shocks the world. Gianni's sister Donatella (the magnificent Penelope Cruz) and partner Antonio D'Amico (Ricky Martin) occupy important parts in Versace's life before and after his death, but they're not always on the same page.

On the Andrew Cunanan side of the story, The Assassination of Gianni Versace delves into his descent from liar and con artist into the killer who would go on a killing spree culminating with the murder of Versace. From his encounter with the Miami-based addict Ronnie (Max Greenfield of New Girl fame) to his final meetings with victims, he loses control in ways that are both compelling and chilling. Adding to the levels of tragedy are the very close calls in which Cunanan is almost caught by authorities before he can commit his final act of violence.

Created and executive produced by Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story fully embraces the look, fashion, and sounds of the late 1980s and 1990s as the series jumps through the years leading up to Versace's murder. The time jumps are frequent enough that you'll want to pay close attention to what's happening lest you miss the quick update of what year it's supposed to be in a given scene, but the story is engaging enough that you may not find yourself wanting to check your phone or look away.

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The new season of American Crime Story may be named for Versace, but the show makes it clear from almost the very beginning that The Assassination of Gianni Versace is really a gripping story about the rise and fall of Andrew Cunanan as he seeks to stand out from the crowd by spinning any story he thinks could be believable. Given how much of the focus is on Cunanan, The Assassination of Gianni Versace would have failed if not for a stellar performance from the actor who landed the part.

Darren Criss is spellbinding and utterly chilling as Andrew Cunanan. The actor previously best known for playing a bow tie-wearing high school warbler on Glee pulled out all the stops as Andrew Cunanan, and he was scarily effective, especially when contrasted with Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace. Ramirez is utterly likable in the role of Versace, and it's easy to see why he was so beloved and inspired such loyalty from his sister and partner.

It's also increasingly easy to see why Cunanan would decide to target Versace. The fashion designer had everything Cunanan wanted: fame, fortune, genius, and the means to live as an openly gay man with a loving partner of more than a decade without being ostracized by society in the 1990s. The Assassination of Gianni Versace works especially well because of the similarities and differences between the two men as portrayed in the show.

It would be remiss not to mention Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace. Cruz alternates between powerful and vulnerable, all while wearing incredible dresses and killer heels. Ricky Martin is a pleasant surprise as Antonio D'Amico, taking his character from one extreme to another in the different years covered by the series.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace isn't exactly the most lighthearted series ever to hit the airwaves, and there's a certain heaviness to it that probably wouldn't be ideal for binge-watching. That said, the series is definitely worth the watch. It's not The People v. O.J. Simpson 2.0 and it's not something that has been done before on broadcast television. In a TV season filled with an abundance of scripted shows, The Assassination of Gianni Versace is a unique and standout series worth tuning into each work.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres on Wednesday, January 17 at 10 p.m. ET on FX. For your other viewing options now and in the not-too-distant future, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).