Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Download Ex Machina
Before the DVD release on 8th June
Win Premiere Tickets
To see Mission: Impossible in Vienna.
Empire Blogs
Small Screen

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Boardwalk Empire: When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings

Posted on Sunday September 19, 2010, 20:33 by James White in Small Screen
Boardwalk Empire: When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings

If the latest show to saunter down the pipeline from US network HBO had an actual canine pedigree, it would probably be strutting around the show ring at Crufts, lumbered with a name like Prince Masterson Von Bonio, known to his over-enthusiastic owners as Matty. You want to talk pedigree? How about the fact that Boardwalk Empire comes from the brain of Terence Winter, one of the select few that Sopranos creator David Chase treated as one of his capos. More? Try the fact that the show has recruited a cast that includes the likes of Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg and Kelly Macdonald, not to mention a roll call of actors from other great shows such as The Wire (OMAR!)

But above all else, surely the biggest fish hooked on this particular line is Martin Scorsese. Returning to television in a directorial (and non-documentary) position for the first time since a 1986 episode of Amazing Stories, Scorsese agreed to produce the show and step behind the camera for the pilot, which, understandably, has been given plenty of attention. HBO reportedly spent $10 million advertising the thing in the US alone.

That’s not hugely surprising, since the channel is looking for another Sopranos-sized hit that can also win over the critics. True Blood is bubbling away just fine, but it has felt like nothing has ever quite stepped up to replace Chase’s New Jersey mob machinations or David Simon’s complicated, challenging work on The Wire. HBO thinks Boardwalk Empire could be it, which might be why it gifted Winter an massive budget to play with, including building an authentic recreation of Atlantic City’s boardwalk circa 1920 in a parking lot. Suffice to say, there's plenty resting on these shoulders.

So step forward Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Buscemi), a man who straddles both sides of the law with ease, charm and, when called upon, total ruthlessness. Some know him as an upstanding figure of the community, the Atlantic country treasurer and a fine politician. While even more see him as the best fixer in the area, dabbling in all manner of illegal activities. As the story starts, Prohibition is arriving in America, meaning alcohol is outlawed throughout the States. While some see this as the end of the world, Nucky spots a rich opportunity, by making sure those who still want access to the stuff can get it.

But it’s not all plain sailing for TV’s latest antihero – true, he’s living the high life, but there are those who’d like nothing more than to see Nucky taken down, especially Prohibition officer Nelson Van Alden (Shannon), who views it as his religious mission to crack down on Thompson’s schemes.

Winter has blended history with fiction here – Nucky is largely based on a real man named Nucky Johnson, and several of the other characters are entirely invented, mostly so he and his writing staff don’t feel like they have to history.

The pilot aired for the first time in the US last night. With Scorsese at the helm it was, somewhat naturally, a thing of beauty, since this is a man who knows how to shoot mobsters and just about every other subject you care to throw at him. It’s difficult to judge without seeing how the other episodes look, but based on reports, the team behind the series has tried hard to replicate Scorsese’s sweeping, fluid camera work in subsequent shows.

But while he had a master craftsman capturing the imagery and guiding the performances, this really was Winter’s show, as we’re straight out of the gate with crackling, dialogue, and the same blend of dark humour, smooth plotting and brutal, but never gratuitous, violence.

Anchoring it all is Buscemi, at ease whether he’s glad-handing the ladies of the local temperance league, chumming it up with his fellow crooked politicians or even awkwardly sleeping with girlfriend Lucy (Paz de la Huerta). If you ever wondered what a Gollum sex scene might look like then A) you need think no further and B) I’m extremely worried about you. Nucky’s also unafraid to get his hands dirty either, especially when smashing Margaret (Macdonald)’s drunken hubby’s head into a convenient gambling table edge.

Also getting a real chance to shine here is Pitt, as Nucky’s driver, Jimmy Darmody, a young man fresh from the First World War trenches and itching to show his boss what he can do. Jimmy’s first, faltering steps into a real life of crime come with some support from a surprise extra character, one whose name I won’t reveal here (it’s more fun when you just hear it for the first time). Shannon, meanwhile, is all driven menace as the lawman dedicated to being Nucky’s nemesis.

While this first episode is largely Nucky and Jimmy’s show, everyone else warps and weaves around them perfectly, with few, if any bum notes. Aside from the occasional, all-but-unavoidable moments where there's simply too much detail to take in in one sitting, this is a successful launch, all scored with period song choices dug up by the music team.

It’s too early to tell if this Empire will rise as grandly as, say, The Sopranos or Deadwood (to which it can also be compared). Unlike a film, which gives you the complete picture within a couple of hours (give or take), shows such as Winter’s latest effort need time to grow, to mature and to unfold their tale. Still, the foundations are solid and I’m excited to see where it builds from here.

Login or register to comment.


1 His Dudeness
Posted on Monday September 20, 2010, 13:08
Does anybody know if this is getting picked up by any British channels, I've been waiting for this to start!!

2 peopleunderthestairs
Posted on Monday September 20, 2010, 13:17
It'll be on SKY, it might even be SKY BOX OFFICE :(

3 MaxxFisher
Posted on Monday September 20, 2010, 14:52
Watched it last night. It was Beautiful Looking. Great Story. Amazing Acting. Followed it up with the newest Episode of Mad Men. So I had a great night

4 Ethanial
Posted on Monday September 20, 2010, 23:08
I've spent ages trying to get Mad Men, can't do it, it's aimless and dull.
Boardwalk starts as it looks to go on, great characters, interesting stories and well handled violence. I wasn't as sickened by the sight of Buscemi near orgasming as the people on imdb, but that shouldn't stop people watching.

Also, credit to Stephen Graham, look at the guy, he started an 80's skinhead, went to help John Dillenger, now I hear his character is gonna be some hot shot in Chicago or something (Never heard of the real character he's playing...)

5 Dynamite_Dee
Posted on Tuesday September 21, 2010, 10:33
I watched the first episode and it was pretty amazing. The production values are incredible; it looked like a really expensive Hollywood movie. Stephen Graham already blew the surprise of his character during an interview on Soccer AM months ago, so I was expecting the big reveal but it was no less exciting and I hope to see a lot more of his character in coming episodes. HBO has done it again and produced a TV show that is superior to anything coming out at the cinema right now, Boardwalk Empire is already making up for the frankly disappointing Pacific. I would expect Boardwalk to appear on Sky Movies Premier in the coming months.

6 TomBowler
Posted on Tuesday September 21, 2010, 12:23
Are we getting this in australia?

7 mighty mick
Posted on Tuesday September 21, 2010, 12:55
Just watched it and I like what I'm seeing: rich, detailed setting and intriguing characters who promise to reveal further layers in episodes to come. I agree with James White, the show feels like a meeting point (both chronologically and in tone) between Deadwood and The Sopranos. And while I'm at it I must say Scorsese has a thing for gunshots in the head!

8 RedCandle
Posted on Tuesday September 21, 2010, 22:22
did anyone else have a moment of joy at omar's one second appearance??

9 simjamlmx
Posted on Wednesday September 22, 2010, 22:43
i agree with your article i thought it was great. Also i'm glad people still remember DEADWOOD as being equally as good as the brilliant sopranos and the wire.

10 jocaso
Posted on Tuesday October 12, 2010, 16:52
accept credit card and paypal
Good news: this website ( =) we has been updated and add products and many things they abandoned their increases are welcome to visit our website. Accept cash or credit card payments, free transport. You can try oh, will make you satisfied

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (444)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


4K Or Not 4K?: First Look At Sharp's '2.5K' Quattron Pro Technology
By James Dyer

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
By Ali Plumb

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 2: ‘The Sign Of Three’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
By Ali Plumb

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 1: 'The Empty Hearse' - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
By Ali Plumb

Empire Visits Fresh Meat Season 2
By Phil de Semlyen

True Blood: Season Four - What A Witch
By Helen O'Hara

My Problems With Sherlock
By Ali Plumb

Supernatural Vs. The Vampire Diaries: Battle of the Buffy Successors
By Helen O'Hara

Why The US Office Is Undeniably Better Than The Original
By Ali Plumb

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye
By James White


Supernatural Vs. The Vampire Diaries: Battle of the Buffy Successors
"I was absolutely hooked into The Vampire Diaries and it's crazy plots, but I stopped watching it aft"  esmegracie
Read comment

4K Or Not 4K?: First Look At Sharp's '2.5K' Quattron Pro Technology
"It doesn't matter if there are 50 billion pixels. The human eye cans perceive anything smaller than "  rubenjames
Read comment

4K Or Not 4K?: First Look At Sharp's '2.5K' Quattron Pro Technology
"4K TVs are actually not that expensive anymore and the 'Quattron' costs 2.300€ (60inches).<"  DrGreenSkunk
Read comment

4K Or Not 4K?: First Look At Sharp's '2.5K' Quattron Pro Technology
"So this is basically the "HD-ready" version of 4K."  grucl
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 2: ‘The Sign Of Three’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"Terribly self indulgent episode, I fear Sherlock has crawled up his own a*se!"  darthmhall101
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"It was by the far the best episode of series 3, with a good plot, engaging villain and great dialogu"  dunc2001
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"With all this talk of Bond I can't find any mention here of the MOST obvious link. Mycroft at the e"  JediBobster
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"nobody else think magnussen was blind ? I also think the irish bird is either moriarty or his sist"  elsquig
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"Sorry but I was kind of disappointed with 'Series' 3 (series being a loose term for 3 episodes!).<"  MDG_78
Read comment

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3: ‘His Last Vow’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction
"I enjoyed this episode and thought it was a good finale for season 3. But is it just me or are they "  Pandora
Read comment


What's The Best TV Show Ever?

Lost: The End

The Show Must Go On

Why The US Office Is Undeniably Better Than The Original

My Problems With Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes And The Curious Case Of The Princess Bride

Supernatural Vs. The Vampire Diaries: Battle of the Buffy Successors

Can Claudia Winkleman Save Film 2010?

Can Torchwood Travel?

Sherlock Series 3, Episode 2: ‘The Sign Of Three’ - Initial Spoiler-Filled Reaction

Damon Wise (299)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Will Lawrence (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

100 Greatest Movie Characters
Your all-time favourite heroes and villains exclusively revealed!

Bonfire Of The Vanities: When Personal Projects Go Wrong
15 hubristic horrors that went straight to movie jail

Podcast 167: Emily Mortimer, Robert Sheehan, Corin Hardy
It's the live Edinburgh special round 2!

The 15 Most Exciting Games Of E3
The greatest games currently winging their way towards a console near you

Distribution Denied! 25 Films You Can't Get On DVD
The movies that have never seen the transfer to digital disc

Hollywood Jackanory: Stars Reading Things Out Of Context
From Ian McKellen vs. One Direction to Hugh Jackman vs. baking innuendos

Before And After: How 10 Books Changed On Their Way To Becoming Movies
...And how their authors reacted

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month!

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe now and save up to 67%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)