mon 14/10/2019

City on a Hill, Sky Atlantic review - power, corruption and larceny in 1990s Boston | reviews, news & interviews

City on a Hill, Sky Atlantic review - power, corruption and larceny in 1990s Boston

City on a Hill, Sky Atlantic review - power, corruption and larceny in 1990s Boston

The cast is strong, the action is brisk and the politics are poisonous

Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr, Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward

Connoisseurs of gnarly Boston-based crime sagas like The Town, The Departed and Black Mass will quickly find themselves at home in this sleaze-ridden new show, made by Showtime and brought to us by Sky Atlantic. Created and largely written by Chuck MacLean, it’s umbilically linked to the aforesaid movies in various ways, being produced by Boston’s finest Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (from The Town and The Departed) and starring Kevin Bacon – an FBI man in Black Mass – as another FBI man, Jackie Rohr.

It’s 1992, and though there’s change in the wind, the Boston police are an incestuously-knit clan addicted to racism, violence and corruption. Therefore, the city’s new assistant DA Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodges) is walking into a hornet’s nest. He’s black and hails from the distant planet known as Brooklyn. Even worse, he’s been a key player on an official committee determined to drag bent police officers into the courtroom. Ward arrives radiating an air of missionary virtue and reforming zeal, and with his lawyer-wife Siobhan (Lauren E Banks) is part of what must be the most impossibly glamorous couple in town. However, he rapidly begins to understand that has to find allies somewhere if he’s going to make any progress. He has long-range plans which include becoming mayor, or perhaps governor, so he can’t afford to fail.

Jackie Rohr looks the least likely candidate to find common cause with Ward, being a ruthless hustler and manipulator with the scruples of a hangman, but he made his name a decade earlier by busting a mafia network, and he casts a long shadow over lowlife and law enforcement alike. Bacon plays him with strutting, chest-prodding energy, a man convinced of his own invulnerability as he squeezes his informants, creams payoffs from bookies and amuses himself by frolicking with a cute waitress from a Chinese restaurant. He has a wife, child and mother-in-law as well as a moustache which looks like it has its own trailer and makeup team, but he won’t let any of that that hold him back.

Lined up against the lawmen is the gang of armed robbers led by Frankie Ryan (a rodent-like Jonathan Tucker), whose day job is filling supermarket shelves (Amanda Clayton as Frankie's wife Cathy, pictured above). However, what really gets his pulse racing is robbing armoured cars loaded with money. On the job his crew pulled in the Revere district, cold-blooded Frankie didn’t shrink from terminating the security guards who’d seen his face, despite their pathetic pleadings that they were regular guys from Charlestown (once dubbed “the bank robbery capital of America”) just like him.

How Ward and Rohr will combine their talents to take down the bandits will provide much fuel over forthcoming episodes. You could hardly call City on a Hill wildly original – it’s more of an extended variation on several popular themes, not least how well actors can learn to speak Bostonian – but the cast is strong, the action is brisk, and the politics are poisonous.

The Boston police are an incestuously-knit clan addicted to racism, violence and corruption

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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