There has been at least one Euro TV program premiere in the US every day this week, including that of Amigos, a binge-worthy drama from Belgium, which arrived yesterday.
Set in the fictional village of Zele, Amigos centers on five ex-con friends who reunite outside of prison and attempt to go on the straight and narrow by opening and running a restaurant.
It isn’t easy.
Middle-aged Rik (Jurgen Delnaet, Cordon) spent fifteen years behind bars for a crime he still has nightmares about, and survived all those years by holding fast to his dream of opening his own restaurant and by teaching fellow inmates how to cook. Leaving prison with Rik is Berten (Johny Voners, Benidorm), a quiet, older man with a green thumb who served twenty years for a crime of passion.
Already out of prison are Dylan (Matthieu Sys, 13 Commandments), a love-em-and-leave-em car thief; Mathieu (Wouter Hendrickx, Witse), a gambling addict and fraudster; and Halil (Sahin Avci, Scratch My Back), a young Turk with a rap sheet filled with various offenses and a talent for cooking.
Rik pays next to no rent for the brothel-turned-restaurant space, thanks to a deal with property owner Alain (Tom Van Bauwel, Professor T.), his longtime friend and former partner in crime, now a wealthier criminal. What Rik isn’t prepared for is the addition of a sommelier to his team — none other than his estranged daughter Tessa (Frances Lefebure, The Score).
Unbeknownst to Rik, Tessa left chef Laurens Haegeman (Kürt Rogiers, The Score), her married lover, and his two-star restaurant to join her papa — much to Laurens’ chagrin. And like her new colleagues, she isn’t above going the criminal route to get what’s needed for Rik’s Amigo’s restaurant (yes, with an apostrophe — maybe it’s a Flemish thing).
That’s the thing for this group of entrepreneurial misfits: the pull toward the quick, easy, and prison-worthy is strong, not just from habit, but particularly by the situations that Rik and co. find themselves in. They have little to no money, a mob boss in their midst, and personal issues that plague them.
Mathieu, the restaurant’s accountant, tries desperately to reconcile with his ex-wife Lynn (Janne Desmet, Professor T.) and to prove himself a good dad to their young son, but does so at the expense of Amigo’s. Dylan, who’d been an informant for cop Cathy (Ruth Becquart, The Out-Laws), gets put into a potentially deadly predicament by the detective, who’s now out to nab Alain. And when Berten lets his emotions get the better of him, his friends are left to deal with the aftermath each time.
Yet they keep plugging away at Amigo’s, because a lot rides on it. Besides being the legitimate livelihood of the five reforming felons, the restaurant represents a fresh start, an affirmation of their potential, and quite possibly a last chance at living a good, honest life.
Filled with heart, humor, and an abiding sense of hope, the tragicomedy Amigos can help restore some of our faith in humanity. Even after Rik exclaims, “Once a scumbag, always a scumbag,” we’ve seen enough to know that it doesn’t always hold true, especially given the transformation of certain characters from scumbag to hero.
The ten-episode drama features Johan Knuts (Rough Justice), Sandrine André (Familie), Sirin Zahed (De Dag), Daisy Van Praet (Scratch My Back), Kristine Van Pellicom (The Out-Laws), and Bert Haelvoet (New Texas).
Amigos is currently streaming in the US on Prime Video.
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