Citadel on Prime Video review: resistance is futile. Just enjoy the ride

It’s fair to say that reports the streaming services were in decline may have been overplayed. At a reported $50m per episode, directed by the Russo Brothers (you know, who directed two Avengers movies), and coming on like Mr and Mrs Smith meets John Wick meets Ocean’s Eleven, Citadel does not do subtlety.

This is a massively ambitious, glossy, globe-trotting, explosion-heavy, spy thriller. Oh, and this first series is going to be the launching point for multiple spin-offs that will be set in Mexico, Italy and India. Citadel is big and loud and in your face.

It’s simply so big and loud and in your face that resistance is futile. Richard Madden is Mason Kane (a wonderful Steven Seagal-ish action name), and Priyanka Chopra Jonas is Nadia Sinh, two elite spies working for an independent good guy agency called Citadel, which is destroyed, in a spectacular opening sequence, by a bad-guy syndicate (why do bad guys always get syndicates and good guys get agencies? It’s just the law) called Manticore.

For reasons not entirely clear – but who cares – Kane has his mind wiped and is living a new life under a different identity in a place that looks exactly like Hawkeye’s retirement place in Avengers: Endgame. But before that’s dwelt on too much, Kane’s old boss Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci having such fun he may as well be tucking into fresh Neapolitan pasta dishes as he acts), bursts back into Kane’s life and explains to him who he really is, who he used to work for, and what he has to do now.

 (Jonathan Prime/Prime Video)
(Jonathan Prime/Prime Video)

And that’s all the back story and exposition done in about five seconds; you have to admire this series’ pace. Before Kane can get back to saving the world, though, he has to seek out Sinh and bring her memory back too with some flirting and fighting.

Cue more exhilarating action sequences, tightly choreographed and extremely bloody scraps, and mad narrative twists, all enlivened by the Russo Brothers’ brand of quirky humour and visual wit. It won’t win any awards but so what? This is pure Saturday night fun of a super-slick kind. Even the silly pseudo-self-aware bits don’t grate too much – “You’re a spy? You can’t even put the toilet seat down and now you’re Jason Bourne?” – as there’s always a knife flying through an artery a moment later. Just get involved.

Worth noting too – as it will be a talking point – is this also feels like an audition for Madden to be the next James Bond. One which he passes with aplomb. Indeed, the gleeful, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it approach to this material is the kind that the Bond franchise – which ended up in a painfully dour cul-de-sac of trying very hard to be Really Serious and Important – sorely needs. Barbara Broccoli, if you’re reading, the equation is: Madden + Russo Brothers = happy audiences. OK?

Citadel will air on Prime Video from April 28