Boardwalk Empire – Episode 1

Boardwalk Empire starts off well, looking very professional.  Then Mark Wahlberg gets a production credit and I start worrying.

Steve Buscemi appears, and sadly all I think of is Buscemeyes.  His character is named Enoch.   He gives a speech to a group of women.  The tale is classic non-truth.  As a child, with his family freezing and hungry, he fed his family by killing three rats with a broomstick.  I’m immediately warming to Enoch as he’s such a brazen bullshitter.

Kelly McDonald watches on, believing every word.  Her nose is really big.

Dawson’s guy shows up.  Wiki tells me that he is Michael Pitt, in the role of Jimmy.  We’ll see about that.

Boardwalk Empire’s budget has been well-publicised, but it’s impossible to ignore early on.  The sets are lavish, the extras numerous, the money – gone.

Even early on it seems that Buscemi is relishing this role.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him so fully into a performance, and not playing a role the way he thinks Steve Buscemi should play it.  If you know what I mean.  I don’t.

Scorsese’s love of music shows a number of times, in dance scenes and in the score of the episode.

The booze clampdown has begun.  Some fellers have finished their training as “Prohibition Agents”, which is a great job title.

The sets scream of typical Scorsese authenticity.  I don’t know if the billboards we see are correct for the period, but the camera lingers on them so long that I can’t help but feel convinced that they’re genuine.

If this accuracy is to believed, back then there were some sort of shops with tiny babies in incubators.  Enoch peeps in the window and a women (hopefully a nurse) deal with what’s presumably a prematurely-born baby.  I don’t understand what I’m looking at.  Is it a shop where you had to pay to stop your baby dying?  Does the owner provide the incubators for free, but keeps them in the store window for advertising?  I, bemused.

Kelly McDonald’s character suffers abuse from her husband.  This takes place in front of their young children, who end up crying.  The show is determined to show the effect that this has on the kids.  Brave.

Stephen Graham makes an appearance as a gangster’s muscle.  He and Pitt talk it up.  As they go their separate ways we find out that Graham is playing Al Capone.  Ooft.  It’s not only a surprise, but the idea of Graham playing Capone pleases me greatly.

Boardwalk reminds me of Turf, a comic written by Jonathan Ross.  There are many similarities: gangsters, prohibition, vampires, aliens.  What?

Jimmy, Enoch’s henchman, is in some trouble.  I expect a staple of organised crime fiction – the repentant man-done-wrong, looking for forgiveness, and trying to avoid getting whacked.  But Boardwalk puts a nice twist on that idea.  Jimmy finds Enoch, seemingly asking for help.  But he tells Enoch that he’ll help him out.  Enoch is more a politician, keeping his hands clean on most of his dodgy operations.  Jimmy, while young, is a war veteran, and is keen to do some dirt.  He tells Enoch “You can’t be half a gangster, not any more”.  A nice, unexpected moment.

Although I couldn’t be bothered writing too much about it, episode one of Boardwalk Empire was very impressive.  Buscemi is very watchable, and there is a lot of potential smeared all over this show.


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