Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boardwalk Empire on HBO

Boardwalk Empire opened on HBO this Sunday Night.  With Martin Scorsese and The Sopranos' Terence Winter behind it, Boardwalk Empire had to be good.   Judging by the first episode, the series is a lot better than good, and promises to be another superb HBO vibrant slice of history, a successor, in its own way, to Rome, which was one of the best series ever on television.

The history of Boardwalk Empire is the onset of Prohibition in 1920.  The place is Atlantic City.   Steve Buscemi, who is never less than riveting in anything he does (including Tony Blundetto in The Sopranos) plays Nucky Thompson, Treasurer in Atlantic City and a racketeer.   As his rebellious protege Jimmy Darmody tells Nucky, however, "you can't be half a gangster."

Nucky's trying to move a boatload of now illegal booze, meaning dangerous but much more profitable.  His buyers are Arnold Rothstein and young Lucky Luciano, both from New York City.  Lucky's played by Vincent Piazza, who looks at lot like Michael Nouri, which makes sense, since Nouri played Lucky on The Gangster Chronicles a few decades ago.   Young Al Capone and his Chicago boss are also on hand, as are the Feds, who are revving up to combat exactly what Nucky and his associates are trying to do.

Before the episode is over, Al will be driving the booze to Chicago, where he kills his boss in his ascension to power.   As Scorsese remarked in one of the promos for the show, one of its great pleasures is seeing iconic gangsters we know well from their later escapades - notably Luciano and Capone - in their earlier years.   Meanwhile, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson is based on the real-life Republican political boss (sweet!) and gangster Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, who held forth in Atlantic City from 1911-1941.

I hope the series runs that long.  It has great color and flavor, fine music, and full-frontal nudity (though, in the first episode, it was confined to a young woman on an autopsy table with a bootleg still in the back).


5-min podcast review of Boardwalk Empire
 




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