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The date is Ash Wednesday, 1980. The place: Hell's Kitchen. Sean Sullivan (Elijah Wood) is tending bar when he overhears three thugs plotting to kill his brother Francis (Edward Burns). So takes out a gun and kills all three of them to keep Francis alive. After that night, everyone hears that Sean is dead, and life continues for Francis and Sean's young wife (Rosario Dawson) for three years.
What no one knows is that Sean is really alive. And soon Francis begins to hear rumors that Sean has been seen hanging around the neighborhood. Little brother wants his wife back (unaware that he now has a baby son). Problem is, if he is still alive, then there are some scores yet to be settled. And Francis may have to pay the price to keep his family safe.
Revenge stories have been with us since... well, a very long time. And "Ash Wednesday" is noteworthy less for the complexity of its story (it really doesn't have any) than for HOW it's told. Family loyalty in movies is something that can rarely be done without sappiness, but amazingly Burns strips it down and makes it very moving. The first half is kind of slow, with a lot of Burns walking around and looking grim. But things pick up and compensate in the second half with more guns, dangerous strangers and family problems.Read more ›
Ed Burns is Francis Sullivan, the oldest son of a union boss, a former longshoreman, and a first-class killer. Elijah Wood is Sean Sullivan, Francis' younger brother, a killer by default. Sean is exiled to a place somewhere out of the neighborhood for his own good, but one day, he returns to Hell's Kitchen and the story begins. Without going into a plot synopsis (I'm not going to explain something you can see for yourself), I will say that the plot is character-driven, and that it unfolds in a very logical manner.
Rosario Dawson and Burns (as always) are enjoyable to watch. Elijah Wood is believable as Sean. The soundtrack is good, and so is the cinematography. As a director, Burns did a great job. The Director's commentary on the CD was extremely interesting and pointed out things about the production of the film that were less than obvious. As a comparison, 'Sleepers' was another film that dealt with some aspects of Hell's Kitchen, even though the story was vastly different. Even so, parts of 'Ash Wednesday' had the same sort of feel. Maybe it was the mindset.
However, I'm sure that this film will have a narrower demographic appeal than films like 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Star Wars', simply because of the religious, ethnic and class issues that define the structure of 'Ash Wednesday'. If your background is something other than Irish Catholic, you're not male, and you're not familiar with life in the big city, then you'll probably have to work at understanding the film's characters and the story itself.
The story is well thought out, but it obviously wasn't meant for the same audience that buys into Paris Hilton, the 'Atkins' diet, or enjoys watching 'reality' shows on television. That alone is refreshing. I hope that Edward Burns continues to make films as well-crafted as this one.
Ed Burns, and it is Ed Burns' film, delivers a solid performance as the repentant Francis Sullivan, who is seeking salvation from his former life. He's not so repentant that he's above adultery, but his brother Sean is supposed to be permanently out of the picture -so does adultery count? Francis is an intense character, gaining credibility through repetitive phrasing as if the only way he knows the next steps are by repeating them. He also wins the F word award as the only adjective in his vocabulary-although his metaphors are as colorful as Archie Bunkers. Burns is riveting in his portrayal and the rest of the cast rides along on the tracks he lays.
Elijah Wood, in an unusual role for him, plays the younger brother, who is imaginative, college material and forward looking, if not a dreamer-but not above killing three men on impulse and returning from the dead on a whim. Wood gives us a foil against Burns' character. While Francis is focused, Sean is not. He lives in a fantasy world (sometimes). He's angry at other times. There could even be a tinge of bi-polarism in this character. Wood unsettles us in his remarkable portrayal, which leaves the character unresolved and allows the audience to forecast Sean's ultimate failure.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Version on this knockoff disk is 4:3 instead of 1:85. Unwatchable. Do not waste your time. It is a bait and switch, sadly. Probably a ripoff.Published 20 months ago by bygeorge
This was really great I was pleasantly surprised! Ed and Rosario Dawson have the same great romantic chemistry they had in Sidewalks. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Britt
A slow-paced but gripping thriller about what people will do to protect their family. Set in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1980's the film has a gritty feel which suits the... Read morePublished on December 9, 2013 by Darren O'Neill
This movie was violet but boring. I would not recommend this movie to anyone. It didn't even have a decent plot.Published on February 18, 2013 by Amazon Customer
since i am such a big edward burns fan i didnt hesitate to watch this movie and it has to be on my top 20 lists of fav movies. very great twists and turnsPublished on April 29, 2012 by joan f
-Genesis 3:19 In a fictional early 1980s NYC's Hell's Kitchen, rumors start circulating that Francis Sullivan's (Burns) younger brother (Wood) has returned to the neighborhood. Read morePublished on March 15, 2012 by Mickey Ryan
Ash Wednesday is a dramatic tale told of one man torn between a life of crime and redemption. The story of his life sheds light over sins of his past that come back to haunt him... Read morePublished on November 4, 2011 by Melissa R. Mendelson
"Ash Wednesday" is a lovably bad movie. It's best paired with its sister flick Ash Wednesday [VHS], a Liz Taylor/Peter Fonda soap opera about adultery, plastic surgery,and an older... Read morePublished on March 9, 2011 by Amaranth