“Boardwalk Empire” Premiere Review
Posted by CJ Cregg on September 20, 2010
Welcome to the world of vice, gild, and music. (And, because it’s HBO, boobs and gore too.)
This is Atlantic City in 1920, and it is a roaring good time. Oh yes. The roaring 20s can roar all right.
Prohibition has just started, and Atlantic City’s treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), is looking to make a buck. The best way to do so in dry America? An underground booze-supplying operation. We see him making deals with some Chicago-based Italians and laying the groundwork for an epic money-making plot. Undoubtedly corrupt, Nucky one minute weaves fake tales of a childhood of poverty in front of the Ladies Temperance League and then, in a cigar-filled backroom, toasts with the mayor and the City Council to the skyrocketing prices Prohibition will surely create. Surrounded by his band of thugs, one in particular stands out. Nucky’s driver, Jimmy Darmody, is a smart young man just back from the war, seeking a better life for his family. His jealousy is displayed and loyalty is tested when offered a job in the FBI to help nab Nucky. Loyalty seems to carry the day when he tells Nucky, “You can’t be half a gangster anymore.” This after carrying out a somewhat disastrous operation to get more booze for Nucky to sell. But hey. You gotta love a man with initiative. But somehow, I doubt we’ve seen the end of this struggle of Jimmy’s.
Corruption aside, Nucky isn’t all bad. He goes out of his way to help an immigrant woman struggling with money and an abusive husband. Just who he’ll turn out to be isn’t clear from the pilot, but Steve Buscemi is fantastic as this character. He’s riveting and utterly believable. I just hope we learn more about who this character is and where the soft spots in his heart lie as the episodes progress.
Like I said, the roaring twenties can roar. And this pilot is LOUD. I think showy is the best word for it, really. It’s a colorful world with
awesome big band music run by the back room boys’ clubs. In one representative scene, a huge ballroom of partygoers count down to Prohibition in a New Years’ Eve style. At the stroke of midnight when Prohibition officially begins, the big band plays “Taps” in mourning of John Barleycorn. (Complete with coffin.) A few seconds later, the jumping dance party breaks back out as high heels, flapper dresses, and feathers fly everywhere. (This pilot also features midget boxing and a healthy dose of vaudeville.)
But at times, I felt like the showiness of the pilot slowed down the plot. Sometimes throughout, the 72 minute episode seemed to plod along. To be honest, it just wasn’t that interesting of an episode. Granted, a lot of foundation was laid down for future plotlines, but this pilot was, to be perfectly frank, nothing to write home about. This is a show that’s going to be driven by the wheeling and dealing of gangsters, so make sure you follow the dialogue.
It was a decent pilot, but to keep me watching, Boardwalk Empire simply needs to pick up the pace.