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“Boardwalk” Comes Roaring Back

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05:Actor  Bobby Canna...

Bobby Cannavale: Steals the Show


It is unlikely that many fans of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” will feel gypped for too long now that Jimmy Darmody is six feet under and isn’t around this season.

A new character, Gyp Rosetti, played by Bobby Cannavale, arrives early in Sunday’s 9 p.m. season premiere to confound Atlantic City’s Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and stir up the booze-running business during Prohibition in the Roaring 1920s.

Cannavale’s powerful performance as a violent Sicilian gangster who has unorthodox language, insecurity, sex and temper issues actually threatens to overwhelm Nucky as the series lead.

From Gyp’s first scene illustrating his language barriers and his volatile temper, Cannavale commands the screen over the first five episodes available for review.

In the early episodes, Gyp’s high-level energy stands in contrast to the bored behavior of Thompson, who only has eyes for a new mistress in a new year (1923) and has taken his eye off the ball of his illegal business, much to the chagrin of NYC gangster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Nucky doesn’t initially know what to make of Gyp before eventually realizing he is a gangster “who can find an insult in a bouquet of roses.”

In short, he’s a nightmare and Nucky already is dealing with nightmares – that’s when he can sleep – over the shocking murder of Darmody, who was part of the plot against him.

Created by Terence Winter of “The Sopranos” and produced by him, Martin Scorsese and a few others, the beautifully-filmed “Boardwalk” occasionally is dogged by a slow pace and some audio issues that can make things a bit confusing. As usual, viewers can expect outbursts tense scenes of unspeakable violence, which is most effective when the violence comes out of nowhere from someone who appears to be peaceful.

Besides dealing with Gyp, Nucky has to deal this season with the emerging strength and dreams of his church-going wife, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald). She has become interested in women’s health issues and tries to survive her husband’s infidelity and her church’s prudish views on the importance of educating women about their bodies.

Having just seen the latest Richard Gere movie, “Arbitrage” (which I give the highest recommendation), I was struck by the similarities between his character’s marriage and Nucky’s marriage. “Armitrage” has other similarities to “Boardwalk,” with the unscrupulous hedge fund guy played by Gere essentially an unfaithful modern-day gangster out to protect his family and his fortune – not in that order.

But I digress. Back to “Boardwalk,” which received 12 Emmy nominations last season.

This season, Nucky’s brother, Elias (Shea Wigham), returns to try and get back into his brother’s good graces after serving out his prison term.

Gillian (Gretchen Mol), Jimmy Darmody’s mother, is running a brothel on a shoestring.

Disgraced Federal Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) is trying to avoid the Feds in Illinois, forcing him to stoically sell irons for a living and taking abuse from his co-workers. One can’t help but wonder if and when this tightly-wound father will explode.

One doesn’t have to wonder about that with Al Capone (Stephen Graham), who still is in Chicago dishing out his own brand of justice.

With its volatile mix of booze, sex, gang wars, politics and plot twists, the first five episodes of season three of “Boardwalk” do justice to its award-winning reputation.

I could use a little less violence. But hold the insults. Thanks to Cannavale, it deserves a bouquet of roses.


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