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SOUTHIE(director/writer: John Shea; screenwriters: Jimmy Cummings/Dave McLaughlin; cinematographer: Allen Baker; editor: Tracy S. Granger; cast: Donnie Wahlberg (Danny Quinn), Anne Meara (Mrs. Quinn), Rose McGowan (Kathy Quinn), Lawrence Tierney (Colie Powers), Jimmy Cummings (Joey Ward), Will Arnett (Whitey), Jere Shea (Martin Powers), Amanda Peet (Marianne), John Shea (Pete), Josh Marchette(Will); Runtime: 95; An American World Pictures; 1998)
“A very familiar crime story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A very familiar crime story, one that has been often done in recent times. It’s about a rough Irish neighborhood and the hoods who can’t escape from it. “Southie” is set in South Boston, an old blue-collar Irish neighborhood. First-time director John Shea has made this independent low-budget film, that is long on gritty atmosphere but short on substance. It’s a violent film, where action speaks louder than words. The climax between the two rival Irish Mafia gangs is settled with guns not words. There doesn’t seem to be a point to this film except to show some tough guys in action, and how difficult it is to stop old habits. The acting is good enough while the background music, a mixture of rap, rock, and Celtic sounds, evokes a sense of Irish doom. But, everything seems bleak. It is an easy film to take on its own terms, if you want to watch a dysfunctional family spin out of control. It reminded me of “Monument Ave.,” which covered the same territory.

Danny Quinn (Donnie Wahlberg) comes back to his old stomping grounds in South Boston after running away to New York City for the last three years to detox from alcohol and to turn over a new leaf from his old roughhouse ways. The last time he was in town he was in a drunken stupor and held a gun to the head of a rival Irish gang leader’s son, Joey Ward (Cummings).

Danny comes home to a close-knit but dysfunctional family that is in a crisis situation. Anne Meara is his widowed mother, suffering from stress due to a heart condition, who is trying to hold the troubled family together without a father-figure present. She has been in and out of the hospital for the past few years due to all the family stress. Kathy (Rose McGowan) is Danny’s alcoholic sister, who is taking a walk on the wild side. His two brothers are unemployed and have incurred big gambling debts to the Irish Mafia.

Mrs. Quinn looks upon Danny as the savior of the family glad that he now drinks soda instead of whiskey, and that he wants to be a construction worker not a gangster. He tells his ex-girlfriend (Amanda) that he’s a changed man and everyone else in the neighborhood whom he thinks would believe him. Things change when he can’t get a job and he quickly gets back with his low-level mobster friends. Whitey (Arnett) has plans to open an illegal after-hours casino and talks Danny into becoming a partner, but he fails to tell Danny that his other partner is Joey Ward. It was just too difficult to understand how that could happen considering the hatred between these two is known throughout the community and how Danny swore he wouldn’t do anything dishonest anymore.

This casino partnership starts all the fireworks between Powers’ Irish gang, the one Danny has close ties with, and the upstart Butchie Ward gang. A predictable shootout occurs between the two gangs and Danny’s past is relived, as he is drawn into the conflict. There are no surprises here, everything goes down a path to nowhere. Since the film has no final note to end on, it uses the St. Paddy’s Day parade to have its final shot–which is tantamount to waving the flag to indicate patriotism or, in this case, Irish pride.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”