Monday, January 17, 2011

#164. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)

Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg

Starring: Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Daryl Hannah

Tag line: "Charlie and Paulie. Two dreamers fighting to get luck"

Trivia:  Michael Cimino was asked to direct this film but didn't think it was a good film for him

On paper, The Pope of Greenwich Village is a crime/drama in which two cousins concoct a plan to steal $150,000 from a local mob boss. It's a good story, executed skillfully enough to carry the entire film by itself. 

But what makes The Pope of Greenwich Village such an interesting movie is what director Stuart Rosenberg and screenwriter Vincent Patrick use to "fill in the margins", telling a handful of smaller tales that prove just as engaging as the main narrative. 

The cousins are Charlie, played by Mickey Rourke (who is phenomenal), and Paulie, aka Eric Roberts (who hams it up in a few scenes, but is nonetheless pretty solid). Each has his reasons for wanting the money.  Charlie's goal is to open a restaurant and settle down in the country with his girlfriend (played by Daryl Hannah). Paulie needs cash to buy into a racehorse that's a guaranteed champion. 

Along the way, the cousins get into a few minor scrapes (in one hilarious scene, Paulie gets back at the traffic cop who had his convertible towed the day before by lacing the cop's whiskey with a horse laxative), and there are lighter moments as well, which feature street-corner stick-ball games and visits to the country. These moments - and a lot more - are geared towards building the characters, as opposed to forwarding the plot. 

Then there are the secondary characters, almost all of whom are just as fleshed-out as the leads. There's Bunky (Jack Kehoe), the crooked cop who lives with his mother (an extraordinary performance by Geraldine Page); and Barney (Kenneth McMillan), the safecracker in need of money to support his mentally-backward son. None of these side characters receives much screen time (Page, who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her work here, is on screen all of 8 minutes), but are given just enough exposure to drive their individual stories home. 

In the '80s, I was a Mickey Rourke fan, and his performances in The Pope of Greenwich Village and Angel Heart were big reasons why. 

Yet as good as Rourke is - and as exciting as the heist sequence proves to be - the really great thing about The Pope of Greenwich Village is how much more it is besides.


Unknown said...

I also was a big Rourke fan. This movie was the impetus for my Rourke Fandom. Another movie I liked of his is Year of the Dragon. Uneven at times but John Lone and Joan Chen were absolutely fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Your review and the trailer definitely have me wanting to track down this movie.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for the comments!

Alex: Yeah, Rourke was one of my favorites back in the day, mostly due to DINER and this movie. I thought YEAR OF THE DRAGON was OK, but like you said, it was a bit uneven as well.

Kelley Marie: Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the movie! Be sure to stop back and let me know what you think.

Tommy Ross said...

"My hand, my hand, look what they did to my hand!!" I always thought this was one of those underrated movies, really well directed, makes you feel like you're right there living the life in the ole neighborhood. Both Roarke and Roberts are excellent, although he could have toned it down just a notch.

Unknown said...

Sinatra's "Summer Wind" over Rourke and Roberts playing Stick ball in the NYC street a seminal moment