"Boardwalk Empire" – “Pilot” Television Review

9/21/2010 Posted by Admin

"Boardwalk Empire" – “Pilot”

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

The corrupt and violent world of Atlantic City comes to life in the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot episode of HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire." In recounting the world of Enoch Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a corrupt politician with a soft spot for the underprivileged and pregnant, Scorsese creates a changing criminal landscape as Thompson’s Empire shifts from a respectable back-closet bootlegging racquet to a violent syndicate.

“Pilot” begins at the onset of prohibition with Enoch overseeing the formation of his new enterprise. He strikes deals with politicians to keep the law off his operation. He sets up shipment at the local docks. He visits the local funeral home where his liquor is brewed in a secret room. It’s a hard job, but the trust he puts in his partners is reciprocated in a successful operation.

Or at least, so he expects.

Buscemi’s Enoch Thompson is of the old guard of criminal--he treats partners with respect and cares for the common man, particularly the impoverished and desperate, offering help to the battered, pregnant and impoverished Margaret Schroeder (Kelly McDonald). Thompson isn’t the typical Scorsese/Pesci gangster, but rather a sympathetic man that allots the character an emotional arc worth following, and like many Scorsese protagonists, he is entirely likable. Buscemi wanders the boardwalk with a sense of wonder, relating to the different sites as he ponders his past, present and future. There’s a lot learn about this character, and Buscemi brings this out with a simple gaze.

Enoch’s protégé, Jimmy Darmondy (Michael Pitt), is a different story. A World War I veteran, Jimmy sees the world as growing increasingly cold and violent. He shows great remorse for his time served in the military but discovers ruthlessness to be a great asset. Despite Enoch’s insistence, the young frequently undermine his teachings, and Jimmy is no exception. Scorsese characterizes the young as impatient and ill tempered, moving ahead before their bearings are set, and using their ambition as a threat to Thompson’s organization.

Much like Enoch, Scorsese appreciates patience and it’s almost shocking how much information he gives in this one-hour pilot. His careful camera work and crisp production design--reminiscent of his own film, "The Aviator"--take on a life of their own, allowing each image to fully resonate with the viewer. Like a picture from the silent era, Scorsese is sure not to lose his audience but also not to talk down to them.

"Boardwalk Empire" is another in a long line of fantastic HBO productions, so it’s not surprising that its cinematic quality is that of Hollywood’s best films. With that in mind, it should also come as no surprise that it undoubtedly will grow into one of this season’s best.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes


  1. Anonymous said...

    Good post and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you seeking your information.