Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg
Screenplay By: Vincent Patrick
Based on the novel by Vincent Patrick
Produced By: Gene Kirkwood, Howard W. Koch Jr.
Cast: Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Daryl Hannah, Kenneth McMillan, M. Emmet Walsh, Burt Young
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes
Review Date: August 6, 2010
All the important characters (and one who only appears in two scenes but is vital to the plot) of The Pope of Greenwich Village have dreams. They are simple ones — nothing fancy.
Charlie (Mickey Rourke) wants to own a restaurant up in Maine with his best girl Diane (Daryl Hannah) at his side. She wants a family with Charlie, and, at just the worst time for him, Diane reveals that they are on their way to starting one.
Charlie’s cousin Paulie (Eric Roberts) wants a life of enjoyment. He once took out a loan from a shark, simply to get front row tickets to see Sinatra. Success for him is not in making money, Charlie tells his hospitalized father, but in how one spends it.
The film halts dead in its tracks to watch a son named Walter (Jack Kehoe), nicknamed and constantly referred to as “Bunky,” talk with his mother (Geraldine Page). He has a dream to move them out to Arizona, where the temperature is always warm or hot and the air is clear, to help counteract Mom’s chain-smoking. They’ll be out there someday, he promises, although Mom is unsure her son’s detective’s salary will afford them the luxury. He’s got something on his plate, Bunky assures his mother.
Vincent Patrick’s script (based on his novel) does not need to make this stop — after all, Bunky leaves more quickly than he arrives — but Patrick wants to. This is a story about down-to-earth dreamers, when all is said and done, and Bunky, like the rest, come ever so close to seeing their dreams made a reality, only to lose them with one wrong step.
Charlie and Paulie work at a restaurant, where Charlie is the manager and Paulie’s a waiter. Unfortunately, Paulie is impatient to accomplish his goals and schemes money out of the restaurant by shorting bills. Both are fired the same night we first meet them.
Charlie wants to find a real job like the one he once had, while Paulie hears about a plan to invest in a possible champion horse, bred through “artificial inspiration” from two other champions. To get the money, Paulie plans to steal $150,000 from a safe. Like all safes, though, it has an owner; Paulie doesn’t think that part through. This safe’s owner is mob boss “Bed Bug” Eddie (Burt Young).
Charlie and expert safe-cracker/clock-chime-repairer Barney (Kenneth McMillan) agree to join in Paulie’s robbery. Barney makes a good living fixing clocks, but he and his wife are getting on in years, and their son is developmentally disabled (and, strangely, absent entirely from the film). His wish is just that they can all live comfortably one day.
Vincent’s script allows these characters to bounce off each other as the world gets in the way of their aspirations and their means to achieve their goals conflict. It becomes a bit weighed down in ancillary characters, like Eddie, who’s just a villainous presence, Paulie’s uncle Pete (Tony Musante), who tries to help his nephew out, and a detective (M. Emmet Walsh), who may or may not be corrupt, to name a few.
Rourke and Roberts are solid (although the latter has a tendency to overplay) and keep Charlie and Paulie’s inherent conflict of values at the heart of the story. The Pope of Greenwich Village has no resolution, which is perhaps the only way to end their story, for as the man once sang: “And still those days / Those lonely days / They go on and on.”
Mark Dujsik is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. For more of his reviews, visit his website.