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Boardwalk Empire: Complete First Season [DVD] [Import]
In fine (and bloody) style, HBO's Boardwalk Empire returns to 1920 when the ban on booze led to a syndicate of bootleggers and smugglers. Created by Sopranos scribe Terence Winter and coproduced by director Martin Scorsese, the story centers on Atlantic City treasurer Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who schemes in private while preaching temperance in public (Mark Wahlberg and Tim Van Patten also serve as producers). Jimmy (Michael Pitt, Buscemi's Delirious costar), a war veteran, acts as his right-hand man, while zealous Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and refined mobster Arnold Rothstein (A Serious Man's Michael Stuhlbarg) represent significant threats to his enterprise.
Nucky's other associates include his sheriff brother Eli (Shea Whigham), sexpot girlfriend Lucy (Paz de la Huerta), and distributor Chalky (The Wire's Michael K. Williams). If Nucky has little regard for law and order, his soft side emerges in his dealings with Irish immigrant Margaret (Kelly Macdonald, excellent), who segues from abused wife to kept woman. As Nucky puts it, "I try to be good. I really do." After he sends Jimmy away a spell, his sidekick joins forces with Al Capone (Stephen Graham, Public Enemies) and disfigured vet Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), abandoning his son, common-law wife Angela (Aleksa Palladino), and mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol), who has a fling with Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza).
Inspired by Nelson Johnson's book, Boardwalk Empire takes a Deadwood-like approach to history by combining characters both factual and fictional with blue language and ladies without brassieres. Winter, who won an Emmy for The Sopranos episode Pine Barrens, takes liberties with the historical record, but the series never claims to represent the truth and nothing but--which is only fitting when everyone's hiding secrets. If the entire ensemble deserves praise, Buscemi rules the show as thoroughly as Nucky rules the city. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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I do really enjoy watching this show. By watching all these "baddies", a little bit every day over many many days, I begin to see what my values REALLY are. It is all relative. In this one, for example, I find that the main guy (Nucky Thompson), who, as the man with the cash, is in the role of being the engine for all the murder and double dealing, and who in doing so makes only as much pretense as is politically expedient of being anything but faithless and cynical, is much less repulsive to me than so many of the others, on whatever side of the law, who exercise their testosterone in such a style as if they ultimately believe themselves to be honoring some kind of a moral code, with all the stuffiness/stubbornness that honorable adherence ultimately entails. Nucky engineers/finances a murder, but he's not the one who I have to watch commit it, so he's not the one I end up hating. Amazing ? Until now I never thought I liked politicians... huh. Was wrong. Be as two faced as you want. Just keep the peace as best you can without clogging the money flow and don't bore me ...that's where my true heart lies.
I also doubt that Bugsy Seigel would have ever survived as long as he did if he were ever the eternal juvenile; they simply weren't tolerated by those who controlled organized crime in the day. I also doubt he had that whiny voice. He was called Bugsy because he was psychopathic with a hair-trigger temper, a lot like Abe Reles, so I found his characterization unbelievable however that is a question of interpretation and doesn't mean the man is a poor actor as much as it was the way the role was conceived by others.
As for the rest of the cast, just as in "the Wire", "The Sopranos" and "Godfather's 1,2" and "Goodfellas" what makes these series and films so great aside from what I mentioned above are the other supporting actors and brilliant character actors and this entire production from Series 1-5 had an abundance of these: Kenneth Williams, Kelly MacDonald, Michael Pitt, Gretchen Moll, the various children...all too many to mention but each one perfect in their roles. Boardwalk Empire? ONE OF THE GREAT ONES.
Season One seems all the more remarkable for a series which becomes better in each successive season. By the time you reach the end of this boardwalk, the final episode in the final season, you'll be far removed from the Nucky Thompson who celebrated the beginning of "the noble experiment".
I would also recommend watching Ken Burns documentary on prohibition, it will explain many of the small details which are included in each episode.
Boardwalk Empire does what is rare in film, it takes its time and builds a believable world around interesting characters, and provides numerous challenges.
You will laugh, you will be shocked, and you might even cry. What was the last movie you watched which had such an effect?