White Irish Drinkers Review - Vets Karen Allen, Peter Riegert and Stephen Lang shine in ‘70s-set Brooklyn tale White Irish Drinkers
(Four out of Five Stars)
Writer/director John Gray blends young leads with an impressive cast of veterans including Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Peter Riegert (Animal House) and Stephen Lang (Avatar) for White Irish Drinkers, a '70s-set, coming-of-age drama set around the working class Irish of Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood. Gray is best known as the writer, director and producer of the long-running TV series Ghost Whisperer, but he draws from his Brooklyn childhood and the people and places from his neighborhood for this tale of a working-class father and his two sons. White Irish Drinkers is a truly independent production with modest production values but Gray wisely emphasizes the performances. White Irish Drinkers is melodramatic in spots and frequently sentimental but Geoff Wigdor and Nick Thurston shine as the two young sons and their scenes opposite Stephen Lang as their cruel father bring the film a burst of emotional honesty.
Brian Leary (Thurston) is an 18-year-old wasting time with his older brother Danny (Wigdor) pulling petty crimes in the neighborhood. Life is rough at home with a drunken father (Lang) with a violent temper and a victimized mother (Allen) without the emotional strength to protect her boys. Brian's surrogate father is Whitey (Riegert), the owner of a rundown Bay Ridge movie palace who lands the Rolling Stones for a special performance in order to earn extra money to pay off his debts. Danny plans to rob the box office the night of the concert and he wants Brian to help him. But Brian has other plans. He wants to move away from Bay Ridge and study art. Brian also wants to start a relationship with Shauna (Leslie Murphy), a pretty girl from high school who works at the neighborhood travel agency. Before any of that can happen, Brian will need to confront his brother and do what's right.
Geoff Wigdor (Sleepers) captures the bitterness of a young man convinced that his best shot in life is through crime. Nick Thurston, who worked with Gray on "Ghost Whisperer," is likable and believably optimistic as Brian, the young hero who wants out of Bay Ridge.
Newcomer Leslie Murphy brings welcome sass as the pretty girl who brings Brian much-needed support.
Allen, best known for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is pitch perfect as a mother struggling to be strong in the shadow of her dominant husband. Peter Riegert brings welcome warmth as Whitey, Brian's boss and friend.
Stephen Lang, forever known as the brutal Colonel Miles Quartich in Avatar, takes a cliché character, the abusive, drunken, working-class father, and tweaks it with subtle changes and believable feelings of regret by the end of the movie.
Cameraman Seamus Tierney and production designer Tommaso Ortino make great use of the Bay Ridge locations and recreate the period look of the blue-collar streets Tony Manero of "Saturday Night Fever" might have crossed. Thanks to their work, Bay Ridge becomes a character as important as any of the cast.
Gray, who also directed the features The Glimmer Man and Born to Be Wild in addition to his TV work, understands how to keep the drama flowing with key subplots involving a blossoming romance, a difficult father and a younger sibling who stops looking up to his older brother.
White Irish Drinkers comes up short on surprises, especially at the climax of the movie. Still, Gray manages to hold the storytelling together thanks to the dead-on performances of his young leads and his standout veterans.
Movie Details, Images and Movie Trailers from White Irish Drinkers:
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Cast: Stephen Lang, Peter Riegert, Karen Allen, Nick Thurston, Geoffrey Wigdor, Leslie Murphy
Director: John Gray
Screenwriter: John Gray
Cinematographer: Seamus Tierney
Editor: Neil Mandelberg
Producers: Ovington Productions, Bernard/Scura Productions
Rating: Rated R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release: March 25, 2011