Movie Review By Larry Carlin
Life is filled with barriers that must be constantly hurdled if one is to move forward. Sometimes the barrier is racial, sometimes it's financial, and sometimes it's due to class structure. And sometimes the barrier can be physical, as in a road or river. If you combine all of these elements together you'll get a good picture of what the new film Monument Avenue is all about.
Monument Avenue stars Denis Leary as Bobby O'Grady, a two-bit car thief in the Irish working-class section of Charlestown, just across the river from Boston, where Bunker Hill is located. It's a part of town where the locals police themselves, and silence is the code of honor. Bobby and his cohorts -- his buddy Mouse, played by Ian Hart, and his cousin Seamus, played by Jason Barry -- get drunk and stoned when they aren't stealing cars at night from Monument Avenue, the dividing line between their turf and the encroaching yuppies. They answer to local tough guy Jackie O'Hara, played by Colm Meaney, who rules the area like an Irish Don Corleone. Things start to go awry when another cousin of Bobby's -- Teddy, played by Billy Crudup -- gets out of prison early, and boss Jackie suspects him of breaking the code of silence. Jackie sends a "message" through Teddy to remind Bobby O'Grady and his pals how things work in Charlestown. Throw into this mix a pretty local lass named Katy, played by Famke Janssen, who is two-timing Jackie by seeing Bobby on the side, and a relentless cop from the other side of the tracks named Hanlon, played by Martin Sheen, and you've got yourself one potboiler of Irish stew, the likes of which you've never tasted on St. Patrick's Day.
Denis Leary is one of those characters who elicits strong opinions from people -- you either really like him or really hate him. As Bobby O'Grady he has found the perfect role -- entirely unlikable at the outset, and likable by films end. Bobby is a man torn between just getting by and wanting to do right. Leary grew up in a neighborhood similar to Charlestown, so he is not too far from his element in Monument Avenue. The film was directed by Ted Demme, who has worked with Leary on numerous projects over the past 10 years, most notably the film The Ref. And the supporting cast is first-rate.
In the working-class world of rough and tumble Charlestown, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad. There are dead-ends and roadblocks down every street. It's not a pretty ride, but you can't go wrong if you drive down Monument Avenue, and for Movie Magazine, I'm Larry Carlin.
© 1998 - Larry Carlin - Air Date: 10/7/98
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