Boardwalk Empire review

Boardwalk Empire is the prohibition era gangster show on HBO, the channel that brought us the Sopranos, produced by Martin Scorsese, the director who brought us Goodfellas and Casino. The cast is stellar, the production values are outstanding.

But the script is pretty flat and in the first episode, not much came together.


Jimmy Darmody went to the trenches of WWI rather than head to Princeton. He came back changed. Ask him, he’ll tell you. Every other scene he’s in, the character tells someone how changed he is. Darmody is a bad example of a whole lot of telling and not showing. I wanted the character to smolder with the pain of what he has seen, not discuss it in every other scene he’s in.

Could we retire the gangster violence scenes that are juxtaposed with something else. I would have asked to retire it after the iconic Godfather christening but the Sopranos made it their own in the episode, College. Boardwalk Empire gives it a go and its just telegraphed and tired.

The other problem wasn’t so much a beef with the episode but with how hyped and analyzed everything is before I see it. I should have stayed away from the making-of youtube vids and so on but I didn’t and I paid for it. There is a neat scene where Darmody is bonding with some muscle from Chicago and at the end of the scene they introduce one another and the muscles says, “I’m Al Capone.” That would have had real weight to it if I hadn’t known. I blame myself.

The Good Stuff

It feels like the 1920’s and even better, it feels ready to say something about our modern world and how little we learned from the “noble experiment” known as prohibition.

Arnold Rothstein is an awesome gangster antagonist for the corrupt Treasurer of Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson.

I am intrigued, intrigued enough to head back over to my buddy, Paula’s house to watch the second episode, even if it is more to see her family than to see the show.

I don’t have cable television, so when I watch shows, it is usually by DVD. I love those shows that grab me in that first disc and make me continue watching. I’m hoping that Nucky Thompson and his crew from A.C. grow into that.

One thought on “Boardwalk Empire review

  1. It was great to see you too. I agree with your comments entirely. I was surprised to read other reviews praising Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody. I thought that character was thinly written and poorly acted.

    That is my only acting complaint, though. Everyone else was great. I am very interested in watching Nucky’s relationship with the newly widowed Mrs. Schroeder develop. Will it be romantic? Will it be a completely altruistic investment by Nucky? We’ll see.

    The Chicago crew is great. Loved the Capone reveal and wish the producers had not chosen to spoil everyone about that in the “making of” video. Speaking of which, here’s an interview with Terence Winter where he discusses the intercut gangster scene wherein Big Jim Colosimo is wacked and Nucky gets shaved:

    I think it’s a rather weak excuse for using a cliche, but at least we aren’t the only people who noticed.

    Tiny note: Nucky Thompson’s dead wife Mabel, shown only in a photograph, is “played” by Molly Parker from Deadwood.

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