Sky’s Scorsese Gangster Series Scores With US Critics

If early reviews for Boardwalk Empire are any guide, Sky’s new HD gangster drama could be untouchable.

The Hollywood Reporter is the latest to publish its verdict, calling the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot about Prohibition-era Atlantic City “nothing short of intoxicating”.

“Not since Mad Men has a slice of history been so meticulously re-created for television, from its elaborate sets to resplendent costuming,” the trade paper observed.

“The scale of the spectacle on display in the pilot sets a new benchmark for the medium.”

But it also questioned the offbeat casting of Steve Buscemi in the lead and pointed out the ghosts of Mad Men and The Sopranos hover over the proceedings.

“Beautifully rendered as the series is, there’s a high-concept conflation of the two shows here in the way it marries the mob melodrama of Sopranos with Mad’s period fetishism. It’s a savvy programming strategy but robs Boardwalk of a certain freshness that would otherwise elevate it to the same echelon as those TV classics.”

But such familiarity didn’t bother Salon, which said “each episode feels as rich and memorable as its own little Scorsese film”.

“If you’ve ever seen Goodfellas or any episode of The Sopranos, a lot about the style and the storylines will feel familiar here. The sly sense of humor, the quick banter, the suspenseful little exchanges that end badly and the others that merely contribute to a growing feeling of dread — all of it can feel like a déjà vu, but only because this is a truly sure-footed show, crafted by some of the best, most experienced writers and directors in the business.”

But although Entertainment Weekly dubbed the series “a big, enjoyably nasty piece of work”, reviewer Ken Tucker argued “the Scorsese-fancy pilot is the weakest (the showiest, the slowest) of the episodes I’ve seen. The production becomes more sleek, emotionally complex, and sly in its subsequent hours.”

People Weekly concurred the show is “gorgeously produced and spectacularly violent” but attributed its success chiefly to Buscemi’s “brilliant, brutally funny performance”.

The series premieres this weekend in the US and on October 2 on Sky Movies.

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