A list on boston.com of movies set in or around Boston caught my attention and this movie staring Denis Leary and Colm Meaney caught my attention. Set in the 90's and in Charleston neighborhoods I expected to find the setting, characters and themes familiar and hoped for an interesting look at something familiar. My family history is more closely connected to Southy than Charleston but I knew and hung out with kids from Charleston connections and the two neighborhoods had very similar histories.
As the film opens I certainly felt the familiarity. I found myself smiling, not that there were jokes but at the familiar foolishness of the guys hanging out in the neighborhood and at Denis Leary's character Bobby's home. They are caught up in criminal activity, robbing cars primarily but connected to a larger crime organization run by a Whitey Bulger type character played by Colm Meaney named Jackie O'Hara.
So when they're ridding around in Digger's cab talking about what they're going to do for the night, it felt familiar, not the things they're going to do so much like the drugs but just the feel of being in that car having that conversation. The smells of cigarette smoke and fake leather car seats in side a cold car with four other guys, the overlapping comments, conflicting suggestions about who to see and where to go, it was all familiar.
The story moves on and introduces Teddy who prior to the events of the film was in jail on a conviction related to some job he had done for Jackie. And Ted has for some reason been let out early. The presumption being that Ted got out early by talking to the Feds about Jackie. We never really learn if this is true or not and it doesn't really matter.
The scene where Ted and Bobby and friends are all together for the first time since Ted came back again brings up feelings of familiarity and nostalgia. Then Jackie appears. The uncomfortable chill even as the characters welcome Jackie to join them strikes me as well. I think of all the guys in my life I've been afraid of and how you just hope they don't take notice of you or if they do that they don't think you're important enough to concern themselves with in any significant way. I know bolder and perhaps more successful people instead deal with that fear by making themselves not only noticed by valuable. It isn't a path I've ever been able to walk. And the film could've taken that turn, I thought maybe that was how Denis Leary's character would deal with it.
Ted is killed by one of Jackie's henchmen, right in front of Bobby and the others. And they hold the code of silence, saying nothing to the police. It at once seems so obvious what they should do and why they don't. Who could be the first? Who would even risk being the first to ask the group to stand together? I was right there in that fear with them.
Another character is Seamus, Bobby's cousin from Ireland. Although he comes from Dublin at a time when he surely saw plenty of violence and hatred it seems the violence he witnesses in Charleston shakes him. He tells Bobby he wants to go home.
But before he can the police pull Seamus into a police car in front of others right in the neighborhood. We learn later, after he is shot dead in Digger's cab, that he didn't talk. But of course that doesn't matter to how someone like Jackie runs their organization, their neighborhood.
Bobby doesn't make himself valuable. Despite the fear he so clearly has, the uncertainty about what he is or isn't capable of, or perhaps the certainty of his limitations he doesn't confront Jackie but does kill him. It isn't a heroic act, and when I watched the scene I felt neither elated or sad. It did feel right. Not right as in good, right as in it made sense given all that had happened in the film and by implication in the character's lives leading up to the part of the story told in the film.
The acting was pretty excellent all around. With the possible exception of Cam Neely, The man was an Outstanding hockey player and from all accounts I know of an excellent guy all around. All he had to do was walk into a room and look surprised, he didn't even have to talk. He pulled it off - just.
This is a pretty wonderful movie in a terrible kind of way. It felt so familiar even with the evil it portrayed and it isn't easy to see the beautifulness of humanity in the story although it is clearly there.