Atlantic City, New Jersey – Las Vegas of the East, new Gomorrah and gangsturds’ paradise. The year is 1920. Prohibition is a fresh and horrifying fact of life. Only fools and the mentally ill believed A.C. could ever stay dry but the resort did host many of the first intercity organised crime hookups and Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s lavish period piece, gives us ringside seats at just such a meeting. Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), corrupt Republican treasurer of Atlantic City is our first interested party. Chicago godfathers Johnny Torrio and Jim Colosimo sit adjacent and opposite, representing New York City, are soon-to-be immortal hoodlums Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza). They are talking about getting into the illegal booze business. Together, they’ll make history, money and widows – a whole lot of widows.
“Only fools and the mentally ill believed A.C. could ever stay dry but the resort did host many of the first intercity organised crime hookups and Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s lavish period piece, gives us ringside seats at just such a meeting.”
Martin Scorsese directs the $20 million pilot and they thankfully haven’t allowed him to cast that sprout faced plebeian Leonardo DiCaprio as Nucky’s young sidekick Jimmy Darmody, that honour going to the charismatic Michael Pitt. Jimmy and Nucky go way back. Jimmy was going places – a Stanford man – before he decided to do the stupid thing and go fight for his country in World War Whatever. Only rubes do that, Nucky tells him; rubes like Johnny Torrio’s young lieutenant Alphonse Capone (Stephen Graham) who Jimmy bonds with over war stories and frustrations of being a trained killing machine with ideas above his station. How do you think that one will play out?
“You never forget that organised crime deals with fundamental human needs. The will to gamble, the will to booze, the will to coose.”
Yes and nice Kelly McDonald plays a foxy Irish colleen with an abusive husband who Thomson has beaten to death and dumped in the ocean. Politicians! Am I right? Hmm?
Well, it turns out that Boardwalk Empire is very good. The look is gorgeous, the cast impeccable and the desperate, venal ambition of war hardened mercenaries like Jimmy, Capone and Luciano is palpable – you read it in every gesture, every utterance, every action. You never forget that organised crime deals with fundamental human needs. The will to gamble, the will to booze, the will to coose. And the corrupt politicians and police of Atlantic City are Nietzschean supermen, beyond morality, beyond reproach, coming and going as they please. Untouchable fucks until you hear otherwise.
And until Aerial Telly tells you otherwise Boardwalk Empire is feelgood hit of the autumn. Make it the centrepiece of your fall collection.
The verdict on Boardwalk Empire: HBO comes correct again.
Marks out of 10: 8
Imagined: Tuesday, September 21, 2010