Boardwalk Empire - Review

A big, enjoyably nasty piece of work, Boardwalk Empire zooms in on Atlantic City in the 1920s. Prohibition has just gone into effect, and the city's corrupt treasurer - Steve Buscemi's oily, funny, nihilistic, knobbykneed Nucky Thompson - is handing out favors and calling in markers right and left. You barely need to check the credits to know that Martin Scorsese directed the pilot, because even the planks in the boardwalk gleam with his beautiful, cynical rot. And Sopranos writer-producer Terence Winter has clearly taken what he learned about the allure of amorality and run with it here.

Based on a real-life Nucky (Johnson, not Thompson), Buscemi's shifty-eyed fixer has no scruples about ordering beat-downs, but he also has a soft heart for a few people who impress him. One is Michael Pitt's Jimmy Darmody, a smart but indigent World War I vet who'll do as he's told with tortured loyalty to rise in Nucky's operation. The other is Kelly Macdonald's Margaret, a poor, honest woman trapped in an abusive marriage whom Nucky helps out…why? It remains a poignant mystery in the early hours of the series.

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