Over the course of his career, Adrien Brody has played a wide range of characters. In 2003, Brody won an Academy Award for his leading role in The Pianist as Wladyslaw Szpilman. Brody is also associated with his role in The Grand Budapest Hotel as Dimitri. In 2021 Brody was a member of the star-studded cast of The French Dispatch which also starred Frances McDormand and Timothée Chalamet.
Brody’s impressive resume isn’t limited to roles on the big screen. Brody portrayed notorious escape artist Harry Houdini in the History channel’s two-part series in 2014. The series received a number of Emmy nominations in 2015, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries for Brody. In 2017, Brody began to play a different kind of leader in the hit-BBC series, Peaky Blinders.
Brody made his first appearance in Peaky Blinders in Series 4, which aired in 2017. Brody played Luca Changretta, a prominent member of the Sicilian Mafia in New York. The Changretta family was first met in the third season of Peaky Blinders, as Lizzie Stark was involved with Luca’s brother, Angel. Their relationship wasn’t approved by the Shelbys and when she refused to end things with him, the English gangsters took things into their own hands. Angel wound up dead and his father, Vincente, tried to exact revenge against Thomas, but it doesn’t go as planned. Instead of shooting Thomas, the bullet finds his wife, Grace, killing her. Thomas then orders the deaths of Vincente and his wife, but Arthur and John go against his orders and leave Audrey Changretta alive.
John and Arthur’s decision comes back to bite them in Series 4. Able to return to America, Audrey tells Luca of what the Blinders have done, and he returns to England, eager to exact revenge against the Englishmen. Changretta warns the Blinders of his impending arrival by mailing each of them a Black Hand, marking them for death. Changretta’s plans to destroy the Shelby family couldn’t have been put in motion at a better time to suit his needs, as the Blinders are largely divided due to the events at the end of Series 3. Polly, John, Arthur, and Michael were all arrested and nearly hanged, which severely damaged their relationships with Thomas before Luca arrived.
Luca Changretta appears no different from a typical Italian mobster but in the realm of Peaky Blinders, he is unlike anything the Shelbys have faced before. As familiar as Luca’s character may seem thanks to various other shows and movies that (stereotypically) depict Italian mobsters, Luca stands out against other Peaky villains. Unlike Billy Kimber of Alfie Solomons, Luca isn’t an eccentric, colorful speaker, but instead appears rather level-headed and calculated in his approach with the Blinders. His composure differs even from Darby Sabini, an Italian leader who was first met in Series 2 and was known to lose his temper now and then.
As Luca and Thomas engage in a lethal vendetta, Brody begins to demonstrate why he was chosen for the role. In the first scene Brody shares with Cillian Murphy’s character, the tense chemistry between the two is clear. First, Luca demonstrates his connections by having someone empty Thomas’ gun before he even steps foot in the room. He then exchanges several passive-aggressive words with Thomas before stacking the bullets across the table, naming each one after a member of the Shelby family. As he names John, Changretta chillingly remarks, “spent,” before flicking it across the table, reminding both Thomas and viewers that he has already killed one member of the Shelby family.
Brody’s line delivery in this scene alone is wonderfully done. He and Murphy tiptoe around one another with masterful intent, suggestively referring to the vendetta in their speech. The scene utilizes silence to amplify the animosity between the two, toying with the tension that threads throughout recent history. Brody is able to carry himself with an effortless suaveness that mixes well with Murphy’s confident and stoic character. Exchanges like these carry season 4 for all six episodes, as both leaders engage in a clever match of chess.
Thomas has always proved that he is not an easy character to rattle. Whether it is in conflict with his own family or the opponents the Blinders have faced over the years, Thomas has always found a way to come out on top. For the first time, Thomas is forced to consider the fact that he may run out of moves against the Changrettas. Unlike the Blinders’ previous foes, Luca does manage to kill a blood member of the Shelby family. This loss reminds the Shelbys (and their enemies) that they are not as untouchable as they once thought they were.
As generic as Luca’s Italian mobster persona may come off, the impact of his character cannot be denied. Brody’s commitment to the characters that he plays helps Luca stand out amongst the established characters in the series. He positions himself to appear gracious but intimidating, even when sharing the screen with someone like Murphy or Helen McCrory. Being able to do so in such a memorable manner in the short span of six episodes is a notable feat in itself.