Tag Archives: poverty

The Wire – Season 2



The Wire – Season 2

**** stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

I finally finished The Wire – season 2. WOW, I LOVED it. I think I may have even enjoyed this season more than season one. I loved the whole docks element, which I thought was a really interesting element to the whole Baltimore crime world. You do not often see the life of a dockworker fleshed out on television or in the movies, but thankfully HBO enjoys presenting original and engaging content. We are introduced to a whole new world within The Wire and meet a pack of new and interesting characters.

I thought Frank Sobotka was a very intriguing (and tragic) character and I always liked Chris Bauer (especially since his performance as Machine in 8mm!) And the character of Sobotka’s son Ziggy: what a sad, lost sole he was – a totally relatable character. I think we all know someone like that or have at one point or another. James Ransone totally nailed that part. You feel bad for him simultaneously while being utterly frustrated by him. He is one of those guys who just can’t get out of his own way.

Nick Sobotka is a great character too – he’s the guy who is caught in the middle with the pressure of truly tough choices weighing on his shoulders…he’s the one who has to watch out for not only Ziggy but for his family. He tries to do the right thing but when temptation to do the wrong thing is too great, he reaches a dire crossroads. I could relate to him quite a bit, for he is the guy who most represented the everyman and like his uncle Frank, did what he felt was the best thing, for the right reasons – even if it was the wrong choice in the end. This is truly great stuff – in the realm of Greek tragedy really and apropos.

The docks and its relation to the human trafficking story-line were very interesting, as was the Greek crime syndicate and its Russian crossover. I liked that we saw criminals from all ethnicities in this season. When was the last time you saw a villain portrayed as a Greek smuggler? In fact, “The Greek” himself, played by Bill Raymond was completely believable and unique. I will confess, that at first I felt The Greek should have been a bit more menacing, but in retrospect now that I have seen the entire season, I think the casting was just right. Raymond’s performance exhibited a less-is-more, less stereotypical and almost un-assuming quality, which is what the role requires.

As always, the procedural element of The Wire is very interesting and I can see why this show has such prestige to it, for it is so exacting and intricate in its details. And I love the politics within the police department and the ensuing in-fighting. Rawles and Valchek will go down in history as two of the biggest hard-ass pricks to ever grace the screen, although at times Rawles (John Dolman) allows for some likability to shine through every once in a while. I love Lt. Daniels (Lance Reddick), Lester (Clark Peters) and Bunk (Wendell Pierce) of course and Dominic West’s McNulty is such a classic example of the worn-out, tortured great cop, which Dominic West plays TO A TEE. I also loved the addition this season of Amy Ryan as Beatrice (or Beattie). Ryan is always great and here she adds a touch of real character, playing someone you feel like you’d run into in your daily life. Ryan is a wise addition to the team, as her character is an eager go-getter who craves the action and suppresses a subtext of quiet desperation, which is very interesting.

And lastly, Omar – has there ever been a better loose cannon? He’s just awesome. Michael K. Williams is truly a revelation in this role! The criminals that populate this show are so engaging, as you judge and root for them at the same time: from Omar to the troubled Bubbles (Andre Royo) to Idris Elba’s Stringer Bell (whom I respect for his dedication to the job and love how he is in business school, wanting to be the best business man he can be), we’re captivated by these flawed people and we’re hanging on their every move, hoping they’ll come out on top. It is an interesting dichotomy to say the least – especially since all these characters are at odds with each other one minute then aligned the next. This show is just so dynamic and rich! We get a true sense for what it is like to be in this world and we certainly don’t want to be a part of it, except for maybe looking in through double-sided glass. Bring on season 3!

The Place Beyond the Pines



The Place Beyond the Pines

**** Stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are the leading men in The Place Beyond the Pines, a very deep and unconventional crime drama that I cannot recommend highly enough. I got my ass out of bed at 8:30 this morning to catch a 9:45 am matinee, as I have been dying to check this film out since I first heard about it months ago.

In the film Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt driver who after learning he is a father, decides to rob banks in order to support his infant son. Not the world’s most noble fatherly decision, but admirable in a sad way none the less. Eventually his path crosses with Cooper’s Avery, a rookie cop who also is a new father. I will not divulge the plot any further, except to say that the story has a strong focus on what it means to be a father and the responsibilities that come with that ever so important privilege.

This is not your ordinary crime film, for it dives much deeper into many of the components this genre usually only brushes over. Much like Michael Mann’s 1995 masterpiece HEAT, The Place Beyond the Pines takes the time to examine the relationships between the characters – on both sides of the law. But unlike Heat, this story’s narrative structure unfolds in a manner that is rare and is executed perfectly. Everything about this film just seems right and by the end credits you are thoroughly satisfied.

The film was co-written and directed by Derek Cianfrance who previously worked with Gosling in the wonderful, if not gloomy indie Blue Valentine (a personal best performance in my opinion for Gosling and an underrated one at that). Here Cianfrance tackles a much bigger film in terms of cast and scope and he gracefully orchestrates tense action sequences involving high-speed motorcycle pursuits and gripping bank robberies in a film that is as captivating dramatically as it is beautiful. The score is immensely haunting as well and it will stay with you long after leaving the theater.

Both Gosling and Cooper give dynamic performances – each actor carrying large sections of the film with just the right notes. Both of them are on an unbelievable hot streak right now and if they keep playing their cards right, they may become two of the best actors of their generations.

The supporting actors as well are all effective, with special shout-outs to Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Gosling’s disheveled co-conspirator Robin (who stole the film Animal Kingdom) and Harris Yulin, the veteran character actor who plays Cooper’s father (you may remember him as the judge in Ghostbusters II). It was nice to see him pop up, as I have not seen him in anything in years.

I definitely suggest people to seek this film out before it is lost in the crowded seas of the impending summer movie tsunami. You will not regret it.