Tonight’s episode of Boardwalk Empire was super, thanks for axing. Nucky is living above a saloon which is where all great gangsters should live. Rick Blaine lived above a saloon in Casablanca and George Haley, Bogart’s character in The Roaring Twenties, should have. Francis Ford Coppola makes it look like gangsters shouldn’t live anywhere else in Cotton Club. And Nucky’s perch is no sniper’s nest. He’s got a great view inside and out. Whether it’s the stage or the sea, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
Steve Buscemi channels Humphrey Bogart for Nucky Thompson. His appraising eye has the same distrust and disbelief we saw in George Haley’s eyes when he couldn’t believe he’d been shot by Eddie Bartlett. Going down yelling “Eddie. Crazy.” You would think Nucky would borrow more from James Cagney because of the Irish connection, but Buscemi captures the physicality of Bogart, himself a product of speakeasies.
I love that Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is going to make a run at a Cotton Club on the Atlantic. White in the house, black on the stage and owned and run by a man who knows how to throw a party. It’s got class. It’s got style and it’s looking towards the future. “New York Sour” opens on two kids auditioning as tap dancers for the club. When Chalky asks them if they’d worked up a sweat yet, they swing into action and give it what the boss needs to see. They hit that floor so hard and so pretty, I’d like to have seen their routine when it got on stage. Too bad their agent’s got a fatal kink. That was a good act.
Having The Onyx on the boardwalk and on Boardwalk Empire gives it a gangster’s legitimacy, cinematic street cred. Gangsters knew how to throw a party and they knew how to design a party room. And if they didn’t they knew people who did. Owney Madden’s Cotton Club was the Taj Mahal of gangster chic long before Las Vegas was anything more than too much sand. Sure, by the fifties most gangsters went to The Copacabana for a good time. But even today, gangsta rappers open the best clubs. Keeping up a grand tradition that they’ve studied from the inside.
Gangsters and music, hot and cool, go together. A lot of bootleggers opened speakeasies, nightclubs and saloons. And they played music. It kept people thirsty. Gangsters helped bring rock and roll to the cities when they ran jukeboxes. Sure it was a racket, but it was a loud racket that got things jumping. In Chicago, Al (Stephen Graham) is doing his own dance. Trying to show his brother Frank (Morgan Spector) that he’s on the move in Chicago, he makes the newsmen jump to his tune when they get his name wrong. I think I read that somewhere, that Al Capone did correct a misspelling, what they never reported is that he also found a whole bunch of split infinitives that he fixed by dangling some participles.
The new prohibition agent is a smart dirty cop who’s going to be too stupid to play ball. The Rolling Stones were right when they sang “every cop is a criminal” especially when it came to gangsters. Either their hands were out or they were breaking rules to bust or turn them against each other. The Hoover era, where agents let gangsters bleed to death to avoid paper work. Breaking Bad is not my beat, so I normally wouldn’t get the chance to make this observation, but it applies here. On last week’s episode, “Rabid Dog,” the final decision to put a hit on Jesse is very realistic, based on thousands of true crime books and stories. Walter didn’t want to kill Jesse, not until Jesse balked at meeting him because he thought the hit was on already. Sam “the Bull” Gravano didn’t flip on John Gotti until after he thought Gotti put a hit on him. Gotti didn’t put a hit on him until after Gravano flipped. A few words could have worked it out. They were never said and it took down the Gambino Family. Joe Valachi wouldn’t have ratted if he wasn’t targeted and he was only targeted because word was he was spilling secrets. The world would never know about cosa nostra if they just had a conversation.
Directed by Tim Van Patten and written by Howard Korder, “New York Sour,” is the usual season opening. It brings us up to date, shows us the new digs, introduces some new friends and lets you know where the season’s going to go. It gives us sex and blood and a couple mysteries to chew over. This week’s mystery is Richard Harrow (Jack Huston). He seems to be on a cross country murder spree. Richard Harrow has become the Phantom. At first I thought he was working for someone, but then I figured he was earning on his way to move in with his sister. Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) was less of a mystery. A man can only take so much shit until he sticks a bottle in your epiglotis, no matter who your connections are. I knew he reached his end and I was glad to see it. I would have done it too, but for a different reason, the guy had a gun in one hand and his other hand down his pants, I’d be afraid he’d pull the wrong trigger. “New York Sour” also introduced Roy Philips (Ron Livingston) who’s going to be staying with Gillian (Gretchen Mol) for a while.
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars