Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)
User ReviewsReview this title
the detailing is beyond accurate and lavish - every stitch, every furnishing, every telegraph wire looks and feels authentic and it is all shot and lit to the highest standards of film not TV.
The story of prohibition and Atlantic City is fully detailed, complex, with Steve Buscemi heading up a great cast. I have a gripe that the F-word was not ubiquitous at the time and strikes a jarring note in an otherwise near perfect production.
Where this shines is in the details - I just hope the story lines and acting live up to the promise - they certainly have so far.
A new standard is set with the storytelling, cinematography, elaborate sets on the shores of Brooklyn, carefully chosen custom tailored clothes and costumes that match the opulent lifestyles of the characters. The occasional inserts of magazines, books, manuals; all in their original form, which not only gives originality (to the show) for the era that is being depicted but also takes you back in time into the deeply woven lives of characters like Mrs Schroeder, Nucky, Eli, Nelson and my personal favorite character Mr. Kessler.
A barrage of other prominent real life characters like Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Liciano, Al Capone, (Jimmy Darmody?), Johnny Torrio, Senators, Congressmen, President and VP contenders make the show complete and give it a political as well as a mob dimension.
Much of what is in the show is based on true events and a cursory search on Wikipedia on some of the famous characters validates it. This is what makes this brilliant show dark just like it's setting - theme song with clouds over Atlantic city.
One of the less talked about part of the show perhaps are the melodious songs that the producers/writers have decided for the background score. The songs fill up the environment with melancholy just like much of the show and leaves us eagerly waiting for the next episode.
Any less than ten stars for the show would only reflect lack of fine taste.
What a wonderful pilot!
First i read some reviews before watching pilot, and they where saying how "boooring" this episode was. Hell no! That was one of the best pilots in a ... ever! When you have screenwriter of "Sopranos" and Mr. M.Scorsese in a director chair - nothing can go wrong! A pilot of "Boardwalk Empire" reminded my of "Goodfellas", "Sopranos" (i read that behind this show is a writer of "Sopranos" after watching pilot) and ... "Departed" - it's was THAT good.
If this show will live up to the pilot - we have a new Emmy winner in all possible categories.
Watch it and don't wary about negative reviews - this is a really great show.
If the show continues like the pilot, and keeps using great soundtracks like the ones Mr. Scorsese used for the pilot. Then we have a third show to join the Sopranos and the Wire. And the fact that HBO renewed the show for a second season two days after it's premiere says something.
Will be watching.
As long before the days of slot machines, Donald Trump, Chinese massage places, street walking hookers, and rundown buildings this period piece shows the real and early days of Atlantic City. Set in 1920's Atlantic City, NJ when Prohibition has just gone into effect this series shows how the city's kings became outlaws. Dealing with the real life Nucky Johnson, yet the series changes the name to Nucky Thompson(played brilliant by veteran Steve Buscemi)who is A.C.'s treasurer and as with any central character Nucky is a complex man. He's a good politician standing for what he believes in, still he's quickly amoral by doing favors and bribes overseeing criminal enterprises and money from booze that's imported with the help of his brother the sheriff. Still Nucky has a soft heart for people in need especially for that of a local lady Margaret Schroeder(played wonderful by Kelly MacDonald)who captures Nucky's fancy with her loving care, a big difference from the hot steamy passion that Nucky has with hot spirited flame Lucy(Paz De la Huerta).
Aside from that a good supporting turn for the series and Nucky is that of hot young buck sidekick and want to be leader Jimmy Darmody(Michael Pitt)who's an aggressive loose cannon kick butt kind of guy. As he skates in the business of battling rivals while trying to impress Nucky with scores and he even brushes in business for Nucky in Chicago and New York as this series even shows the early start of legends Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. As Jimmy's the great wild card of the series a hot headed war war I vet who couldn't be tamed at home by his sexy wife Angela(Aleksa Palladino)as this boy is just a little complex from having a showgirl for a mom Gillian(Gretchen Mol).
And with any early mob drama it's only fitting to have a good guy trying to sort out the mess and bring corruption down well enter federal agent Nelson Van Alden(played with toughness and zeal from Michael Shannon)an intense by the book lawman who's determined as it's always interesting to watch him follow Nucky's dealings and travels.
Overall this now is the best show on TV and only the best in the business HBO could have done it. "Boardwalk Empire" shows the roaring twenties as vibrant and classic meanwhile the life of this place is a violent underworld that had to be in a time of social prosperity and progress that was upstaged by corruption and booze debauchery in the Prohibition era. It's such a historical drama that it's educational really as it shows with it's central character Nucky Thompson life is complex and always temptation will override playing by the book as easy money is the way to live, still when dealing with money, booze, and sex it's tough and violent. Still "Boardwalk Empire" does all of this in such a classic way that's exciting and exhilarating as it's dazzling make it a must see for yourself and toast up and drink up to this it should last a little bit.
But that's not the kind of sentence I'd like to employ with this series. I can tell this is going to be a good one. Not because we have as backdrop the fiery, blood-fuelled mob wars between two powerful cities, or the facetious, slippery trade of liquor during the Prohibition era.
While all these are very interesting to watch in their own respect, especially the accurate depiction of the violence and crimes of the time, what I like best about this show, so far anyways, are the characters.
I am not saying the plot isn't fairly fascinating itself, but I am more drawn to the protagonist, rather than the actual story. Nucky Thompson is fascinating to watch simply because he is a lonely man with too many people around him. He is like an island (cleverly depicted in the opening theme), standing in the midst of a raging era. He is a strong man with a strong head, but when it comes to his heart, well - he tends to show a much more vulnerable side. He looks like a cold bastard and acts like a pragmatic, self-complacent, crafty and almost cruel business man. At the same time, however, he's a warm fellow, with a heart made of tiny sheets of gold, that likes to protect all things pristine and innocent in the world. He is almost too aware of the fact that he can't accomplish that. He knows that his principles, while set in stone, are morally wrong and that he can't do his job and also do what he thinks is right. He can't be half a gangster, as Jimmy tells him. So he compromises and tries doing both, with somewhat peculiar consequences. Here is man who can seem completely accustomed to the world he lives in, while, simultaneously, finding a hard time adjusting to it.
When Steve Buscemi's character (who, by the way, was perfectly cast in my opinion - opinion which is not shared by many apparently) gives his touching, over-the-top, speech at the beginning of the episode, narrating how he procured some rats as dinner for his family on a cold winter night, we know it's a ruse and we as audience can already guess he is using it as a ploy to earn the trust and admiration of the ladies gathered there. And yet, we kind of hope and believe that part of his story is true. And that, although he lied about it, in his heart, he would actually do that. And that, a bit of that little boy resembles this grown weary man. You almost start thinking, towards the end of the episode, that maybe he wasn't lying to them at all,that maybe he was actually telling a real story. And that's when the character becomes fascinating to watch.
And Nucky isn't the only character to watch. There are many well-rounded characters here that surprised me in many good ways. I never expected this much depth from these supporting characters. At least at first, Jimmy's character did not seem so complex to me. It's only when the story progresses, that we do see how twisted the little fellow really is.
Same goes for Arnold Rothstein's character, played by the grossly underrated Michael Stuhlbarg, as a cool, stoic mobster with a charming and affable personality. His poised elegance appears almost sinister at times. Especially after his gambling success, when he explains to Nucky how in actuality, he's the one who owes him money. Another good one for me is Margaret's character, the abused Irish wife that Nucky takes a peculiar interest in. Her quiet innocence and deliberate, unaffected candour make for a refreshing change from the sensual femme fatale of the jazz era, portrayed by Nucky's girlfriend. Many critics complained that she is a stale stereotype of the victimised woman portrayed as a saint, as opposed to the promiscuous vain, self-absorbed tart. So this would be the reason why Nucky's interested in her. But I disagree, she brings a lot more to the screen than a stereotype of an abused wife. Yes, she is placed there to show a contrast between different women at the time, but she has something of her own, her expressions, her mannerisms, her actions that speak louder than her role and position in society. For me at least, she was riveting to watch.
The weak characters of the show (like Van Alden, Lucy or Lucky Luciano) I suppose have not yet been developed after only one episode and I look forward to seeing more of them.
However, all in all, the cast is a delight to watch. And for me, the characters make this show better than it actually is. The plot is elegantly handled (I speak as an amateur of this particular genre) and it swerves and turns enough times to distract us from any loose ends, making sure we focus on some key moments of the story, but the characters really do bring out the best of it, for me at least.
I give it a nine, because I have a feeling this show will grow into something worthwhile.
Nucky's girlfriend (played by Paz de la Heurta) spices the show up with wonderful flashes of her beautiful nude body. The dressing room scene in episode #3 where she strips naked is magnificent to behold! The lady is a work of art...
There is also a subtle complexity to the character of Nucky. He is not just a "bad" villain; a simple,one-dimensional caricature. Instead, he shows loving emotions, such as his desire to have children and his attraction to the good-hearted, honest immigrant girl. (who on the surface appears to be his antithesis) He doesn't just commit crimes or violence for enjoyment of evil, but its often part of a Machiavellian purpose.He doesn't just take from the community, but he gives back as well. Perhaps he is the benevolent dictator or Philosopher King that Plato imagined. In many cases he redistributes wealth to those who need it most. Even if he is primarily doing it to serve his own interests, he is providing a critical function and service to the community and time in which he lives.
The series also makes stinging criticisms of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and how powerful political and economic interests often manipulate naive, well-intentioned fools. Even today, soft drugs like marijuana are illegal, while far more addictive and socially harmful products (such as tobacco and alcohol) are legal. Marijuanna has been kept illegal because the powerful alcohol and tobacco lobby groups don't want competition to cut into their profits. But dumb people still believe the politicians who outlaw soft drugs like this are doing it to "protect" society.
In any case, this series is highly entertaining and will help people to understand the futility of prohibition policies and start to think about the real political and economic interests that are operating behind the scenes. The show is fun and addictive. (hopefully the government won't outlaw it) Watch it; you'll be glad you did.
I really liked the pilot, but it was the 2nd episode that really hooked me up!! The characters are so well written, filled with humanity and contradictions.
Most of the dramatic situations are pretty conventional, but, as someone once said: "it is better to start with a cliché than to end with it".
I have no doubt the show will end up being a freshening experience for the crime genre fans.
And no, Nukcy Thompson is not Tony Soprano. This is not a family drama.
This is something else, and thank god they aren't repeating the Sopranos formula, but going in a different direction, which I'm sure give great results :-)
It focuses on Enoch 'Lucky' Thomson, played by Steve Buscemi, just as prohibition kicks in, and the start of bootlegging. Some would say a curious cast for the lead role as he is often best as a supporting character or just an out and out strange dude, but he glides through the first episode, with Scorsese choosing to show him as a man/potential gangster with a soft side, hinting at a meaner streak to come. The inevitable comparisons to Tony Soprano cannot be justified as it is just one episode and really a different kettle of fish altogether, although it is written by one of the Sopranos writers.
The supporting cast roles are all filled with established actors but with some great roles going to the younger set, notably Michael Pitt (Funny games), Stephen graham (This Is England) and Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting) it gives a sense that it is going to run for many years as these characters develop.
As with all new series, it takes time to get the nitty gritty and give the audience a sense of belief and love for the characters. Some have said on here that the pilot is too slow, but in my opinion it moves along at a nice even pace with a great set up. The music throughout is also first class.
Time will tell if it can eclipse the dizzy heights of The Sopranos or The Wire, but judging by intent of everyone involved, it may just make the top 3!
but after watching season 2 entirely i will surly give up on it. my problem is that the writers are going after "The Godfather Effect" with cheap melodramatic thrills all in the name of so called realism...characters are multidimensional (most have likable/dis likable traits) but season 1 is all over the place with the same message given over and over: "America was a much more ruthless place than it is today, with everyone unscrupulous, driven by almighty dollar...". Meanwhile season 2 starts rather better off but derails off track and in the last 2 episodes there was so much predictability when expecting the twist.
my point i try make is that the serial becomes UN-entertaining fast. after the season 2 finale especially, i really can not care less for any of the "players" LEFT in play... for such "realism" i will just call my local politician or read the newspaper between the lines, i don't need waste time watch a fantasy that claims to be realistic (oxymoron at best).
it is a much too materialistic show for my taste (capitalism at its finest...right...) with very little if any educative content besides the costumes and appliances used on sets).
Everybody's screwing everybody, everybody's down each others pants and up each others skirts, oh it's so ambiguous. Get over it, it's been done, before and better and cos this is TV and something worked once lets do it until everyone's so sick of it we'll never do it again...until we run out of ideas that is. Just check Kelsey Grammar in Boss and a plethora of others for this 'he's not good or bad he just is' characterisation. Darmody is the only character I care about and he's not in it enough. Ambiguity is good, people make mistakes, shades of grey blah blah but can you seriously say you are rooting for Nucky?
Lead characters have to be at least kinda likable. The lead character in this piece is a villain operating for money and power with no redeeming qualities. Tony Soprano was a dedicated family man. Bill Adama fervently cared for the survival of his fleet. Why doesn't Nucky take his money and retire somewhere good instead of staying in that damp, drab, grey wasteland he calls home. What's his motivation? Why should I want him to succeed?
I would rather a show shot on a sound stage with cardboard sets and a great story than a show with a $500m budget and a boring one. I think the praise and accolades Boardwalk Empire has gained are based on the name power of Scorsese, Buscemi and HBO. Over time this series will not be mentioned in the same breath as The Sopranos or Deadwood. Don't believe the hype. Get off the bandwagon.
Whereas with The Sopranos I felt an emotional attachment to the characters (as heinous as they were), I'm just not feeling it here. It's as if the writers don't have a seasonal, let alone a series arc in mind.
This series continues to waste a great cast.
On the upside, the set design and music are wonderful. The series really evokes the early '20s (not that I was there).
Take some money from the art design budget and put it into some great writing.
Which is not to say that this show is unredeemable. But the series needs to cut down on the incidental characters and flesh out a good "core" cast in much tighter plot lines.
As a Jersey boy who grew up in beautiful Newark during the 40's and 50's this costume drama ticks all the boxes. For those who found fault, you are a mystery to me.
Simply put, the show is terrifically boring. The creators think that peppering the show with gunshots and T&A will make up for what is an unbelievable lack of conflict or character depth.
Not once in any of the episodes has the story been ahead of me and I'm usually well ahead of it, predicting every death and move in advance--sometimes even the location and method, though I've never read anything of the period. It's as if the writers have absolutely no vision whatsoever and they're terrified of treating their audience as adults.
I am stunned that this title has been "renewed" for a second season after only one episode aired--and not even a particularly good episode at that. It seems that, with the exception of John From Cincinnati, every time I try a new HBO show I think the same thing: they cancelled Deadwood for this?! There was more conflict in every single episode of Milch's show than in the entirety of this snoozefest so far.
It seems as though Scorsese--though merely an exec producer--has been off his feed for more than a decade. I was once a big fan--I've got an autographed Taxi Driver poster hanging on my wall--but, truly, this project presents him with absolutely no challenge. There is nothing for him--or anyone else involved, except maybe the set designer/decorator--to rise to.
The cinematography and blocking are uninspired--the dialogue is pedestrian. The acting is fine but the players have nothing to play with. I'll agree with the other reviewer who said the music is terrible (something Scorsese used to be great at). I literally laughed out loud at the organ music cue in episode 7. One of the most ridiculous and ham-handed, overwrought cues I've heard in my life.
Like last year's Treme, this show just never seems to find its footing. To say it ambles would be accurate, but is dangerously close to being a compliment, given the actual pace at which this unfurls.
Good god, it's boring. Do yourself a favour and skip it. Or bring a good book.
So many great factors (Buscemi, most of the cast, sets, styling, cinematography, characters, relationships... the subject and the historical context... the little ideas, like the weird, devout FBI agent...the whole idea...) but it's just so slow and boring. At first I figured it was important to establish the scenario, and clearly they want to create complex characters and relationships, so they need a little time. But even after six episodes, almost nothing has happened. Such a pity it's such a waste of time.
And the IMDb rating must be the result of manipulation. You simply cannot compare this with the Sopranos. Sorry IMDb, you have to find a way to protect your credibility and figure out how this has been done. This series is not rubbish, but no way has it earned a nine-star average rating.
there has been little reason for me to learn about prohibition, and few people in my life who could teach me about it. until this year when the issue of prohibition came up regarding the taxation and control of another substance. it's remarkably timely that this particular series is released this year.
the 18th amendment prohibited the manufacture, sales, transportation, importation, and exportation of alcohol; consumption of the substance is not mentioned. this meant that the substance itself was not illegal. in the very first episode, this is shown in the plot: the internal revenue agents busts a manufacturing operation; this was shown simultaneously to hijacking of a Canadian alcohol shipment, where the hijackers were markedly afraid that agents would appear. the shipment itself was to be consumed at a judge's daughter's wedding, implicit that the judge would understand that this is legal as long as no one asked where the alcohol came from. the series also clearly points out that it is the bureau of internal revenue which enforced prohibition.
this series is relevant to its time. i haven't been able to watch *anything* for a good 2 years now. i sat through the entire pilot engaged. as other reviewers have pointed out, the historical accuracy and production values are both high. i am impressed at the foresight and skill of the production; i recommend this series and will continue to watch.
The episode begins with the day before the first official day of Prohibition in the U.S. which would be January 15, 1920 ( prohibition began official Jan., 16, 1920) as fictional character Enoch "Nucky" Thompson is speaking to a temperance meeting about a fictional story of his childhood "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story" he later tells one of his men when he is questioned about the stories truthfulness. So here is the set up for the series "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story". It is said that the character is based upon Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson an Alantic City Politician and racketeer of the period, but with great license (fictional license that is). The episode ends on May 11, 1920 as Big Jim Colosimo was gunned down in his eatery in Chicago while waiting for a shipment to arrive, supposedly by Al Capone; but who knows. So the time-line of the episode is Jan 15-May 20, 1920.
One scene has Nucky standing on the Boardwalk, near a bench, looking out over the Alantic Ocean and I had to laugh since it is similar to where Tony Soprano would stand both in dream sequences and other scenes of the show. It is inevitable the comparisons, New Jersey, Mobsters. One has to compare also to the Godfather at the end as one man is taken out and dumped in the ocean (ala Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero in the Sopranos-although this body turns up), and Big Jim is gunned down in Chicago. I like it when business is taken care of at the end of the show.
It's a mob show ant the first episode is directed by Martin Scorsese, and his ability to move this genre forward are legendary, can his ability be met in future episodes we will see. I cannot imagine that it will be as popular as The Sopranos was, but ya never know...
Of course, there is much to admire in Boardwalk Empire in terms of production values and savoir-faire: from the lavish set (the whole Atlantic City boardwalk was recreated, brick by brick) to the jaw- dropping costumes, from the slick panning-shots to the assured editing, probably never before has TV looked like big-budget cinema. Every single doorknob, period prop or jacket button look expensive; millions have not been spared, and it shows.
Atlantic City is a ghost-town full of dead-men walking, and despite all that illegal champagne flowing and decadent partying, it feels like the mob hedonism, Goodfellas style, is long gone.
Huge credits must also be given to the supporting cast: Michael Pitt, presumably filling in for the Di Caprio obligatory slot (it seems that Scorsese is now unable to produce anything without him, or anybody that looks like him), is by far the most fascinating actor to watch, dominating every scene he is in with a textbook interiorised intensity à la DeNiro; Stephen Graham is a great proto-Al Capone with his pudgy bulldog face; Michael Stuhlbarg pulls out an impressive metamorphosis from the nerdy Jewish academic he played in A Serious Man to the suave yet constantly menacing criminal mastermind Arnold Rothstein ; the disfigured WW1 veteran with his mask and sniper rifle is genius but underused, and finally Michael K. Williams (a.k.a Omar from The Wire), providing a nice touch of self-referential casting (look at how much he enjoys himself declaiming countless "motherfuckers" after all these years of swearing deprivation). Kelly Macdonald inherits the most likable character with the poor Irish immigrant turned courtesan Margaret Schroeder, but she turns out incredibly irksome halfway through the season– mainly because of the stagnant nature of her story lines and the total lack of chemistry with co-star Steve Buscemi. Which leads me to the two antagonistic forces supposedly driving the show: Buscemi's Nucky Thompson, half-gangster half-politician, and Michael Shannon's Agent Van Alden, a quarter Elliot Ness, a quarter puritan and a good half pure sociopath.
This is where one of Boardwalk Empire's main flaws lie: in the miscasting of their two leading men, Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon. I am not the first one to notice it; as good as Buscemi can be playing the off-kilter supporting role in independent flicks, he does not convince as the main focus of the show. He lacks Gandolfini's stature, DeNiro's charisma, Pacino's menace or Idris Elba's charm – to cite only but a few iconic on screen kingpins. Buscemi is at his best schmoozing during political reunions with his witty one-liners and wry smile, but fails to deliver any thrills when things are heating up. On the other side of the spectrum, Shannon delivers a madly theatrical, completely OTT performance, as the grimacing, self-flagellating federal agent. He never really fits in the show, and personally, I never managed to take him seriously
Finally, my main concern with this first season is the plot: it's all over the place, consisting of a disjointed bunch of not-so-exciting story lines; the series slightly taking off after five episodes, but never to really climax at any point and ending up with one of the most underwhelming finale I have ever seen. The attempts to introduce a solid socio-historical background are laboured and slow down the action, and in the end are too sporadic to really fulfil their pedagogic intentions.
Most of the events taking place in Atlantic City are dull, and the show only seems to achieve its potential when introducing historical characters like Capone, Rothstein, Lucky Luciano etc. or taking its protagonists to New York and Chicago – wherever Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) goes basically. The best episode of season 1 is by far "The Face and the Finger", a violent account of the territorial war in Chicago's Greek Town experienced through Jimmy's reluctant involvement. Nothing to do with Nucky Thompson then Less of him and more of Michael Pitt's Darmody in season two would be a big improvement.
Like most of Scorsese's films of the last 15 years, Boardwalk Empire reaches perfection on a purely technical level, but it feels more like a trip to the museum than a movie – where are the urgency, the guts, the invention that made Marty's earlier stuff so indispensable? It also feels like the weight of expectations is burdening Terence Winter, nowhere near as creative and groundbreaking as he was when penning cult Sopranos episodes.
Maybe it was just a hesitant start to a classic in the making, and Boardwalk Empire, just like The Wire, may turn out to be a slow-burner. Or not.
Am wondering if Steve Buscemi will be up to playing suave gangster Nukki Thompson in this series.
It appears that director Martin Scorsese and others associated with this production have all totally captured the period. The set decorations seem to be excellent.
We see that Nukki can actually have a heart in his treatment of Mrs. Schroeder, of course the fact that he has had Mr. Schroeder killed is something else.
The film is very interesting in that it takes us to the beginnings of the illustrious careers of Arnold Rothstein and Al Capone.
Corruption is wide-spread throughout Atlantic City. Even Thompson addresses a meeting of the Lady's Temperance Society at the film's beginning.
As this part ends, we see the linking of Atlantic City to Chicago for violating the Volstead Act. The film is immediately showing that the latter act was so much more trouble than what it was worth.