Boardwalk Empire is up there with the best HBO dramas. It doesn’t hit the heights of The Wire and The Sopranos but then what does? Unfortunately for Boardwalk Empire you can’t help but compare. That said, it is beautiful to watch and is thoroughly entertaining.

It tells the story of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (based on a real life person) who in the 1920s was Treasurer of Atlantic City and was also responsible for keeping the city supplied with booze during the prohibition. The series has many different plot strands but manages to tie them all together quite neatly. The show has a wide scope as well. Not only do we follow organised crime in Atlantic City but we also get to see organised crime in New York and Chicago. This opens up the world providing a far larger scale than most series.

The characters are wonderful and played by equally wonderful actors. Steve Buscemi stars as Thompson, and is instantaneously likeable, even if at times he feels a little light to play such a powerful leader. Looking at James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, you never thought twice about who was in charge. And this is not just about weight, it’s about presence. It happens that, when you research the real man who inspired Nucky, you find out that he was one big guy, totally the opposite to Buscemi but for the most part this doesn’t matter. Michael Pitt of The Dreamers plays a young man who has returned from the First World War with a glazed expression due to the horrors he has witnessed. Looking at Pitt I was worried that they had cast a pretty boy simply to attract younger woman to watch the show, but this is not true at all. Pitt is marvellous as the damaged young man looking to make a name for himself now that he is back from Europe. Kelly Macdonald plays a young Irish mother who, through ways I will not disclose, gets caught up in the drama. She is a great actress and is fantastic in this role. Michael Shannon’s character is a prohibition officer and just as in Revolutionary Road and Take Shelter he shows us a man with an unstable mind and is magnificent in the process. The man who steals the show however is Stephen Graham as Al Capone. He lights up the screen with a sense of humour and danger and I certainly hope there is more of him as the series goes on.

Boardwalk Empire is one of the best looking shows I have ever seen. The sets, the costumes, the lighting are all top notch. The show also sounds spectacular. The authentic soundtrack and realistic sound effects round off the totally immersive feeling.

HBO have a tagline saying “Its not TV it’s HBO” In many ways a lot of their series, even comedies such as Eastbound and Down, feel more like extended films. It is this level upon which they should be judged. So it is satisfying when they tell a complete story in one series without leaving cliffhangers. For it is cliffangers that expose the business behind the art – the show must go on and the makers must have their money. While there is a cliffhanger element here in the last episode, it does not take over the ending. From watching the pilot again after finishing the whole series you see how the seeds are planted and how everything is planned. Which is wonderful to know. There is nothing worse than watching a show with no thought through destination trying to fool us into thinking there is some grand plan, i.e. Lost. Boardwalk Empire, though, is not quite as tight as say the first series of Deadwood or any series of The Wire.

You do expect just that little bit more when the man behind the show is Terence Winter, one of the best writers on The Sopranos. Martin Scorsese also serves as Executive Producer and directed the first episode. It is the presence of these powerhouses that makes you immediately have high expectations. The show does stand up and is really, really, REALLY good. But it isn’t The Sopranos. It isn’t The Wire. It is however one of the best shows in years, albeit one with mild flaws.

Movie Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Harry Davenport
Rated: 15 (UK)
DVD/BD Release Date: 9th January 2012 (UK)
Director: Terence Winter
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt , Kelly Macdonald , Michael Shannon

fancy winning the whole of season one on DVD?

In which US state will you find Atlantic City?

A) New York
B)  New Jersey
C) Massachusetts

Send your answer , name, address to win@thepeoplesmovies. com  have your email header As ‘BOARDWALK EMPIRE’

Deadline:January 29th , 2012 (2359hours).

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