×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Black Donnellys

An old adage cautions that every successful filmmaker has a highly personal dud in them, just yearning for the industry clout to set it free. Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco enjoyed precisely such leverage after their Oscar-winning "Crash," and the result is this grim, brooding, utterly muddled crime series.

With:
Nicky Cottero - Kirk Acevedo Jimmy Donnelly - Thomas Guiry Kevin Donnelly - Billy Lush Joey Ice Cream - Keith Nobbs Sean Donnelly - Michael Stahl-David Tommy Donnelly - Jonathan Tucker Jenny Reilly - Olivia Wilde

An old adage cautions that every successful filmmaker has a highly personal dud in them, just yearning for the industry clout to set it free. Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco enjoyed precisely such leverage after their Oscar-winning “Crash,” and the result is this grim, brooding, utterly muddled crime series, which travels the same littered, dangerous roads — with considerably less panache — as an earlier Haggis offering that squandered CBS’ time and resources, “EZ Streets.” NBC might fare better with “Heroes” as a lead-in, but it will take true heroics to win “The Black Donnellys” an extended reprieve from an Irish wake.

Told in not-always-to-be-trusted flashback by the incarcerated Joey Ice Cream (Keith Nobbs), the mishmash of a story involves the four Donnelly brothers, who, if this were “The Godfather,” would amount to three Fredos and one Michael. With so many Jimmys and Tommys and Joeys and Jennys running around, it’s about three-quarters of the way through the premiere before anybody can tell them apart, which might be just as well.

A ne’er-do-well New York clan that oversees a local bar, the Donnellys are petty thieves with the exception of Tommy (Jonathan Tucker), who yearns to be an artist and pines quietly for neighborhood girl Jenny (Olivia Wilde), who’s married to a guy who disappeared and is thus unavailable. Tommy has to look out for his hot-tempered brother Jimmy (Thomas Guiry), simple-minded Kevin (Billy Lush) and ladies man Sean (Michael Stahl-David), even if that means figuring out what to do with a stolen truck or a kidnapped Italian bookmaker.

Jimmy nurses a bum leg from his youth, so he’s perhaps to be forgiven for being a twitchy drunk. Still, as constructed by Haggis and Moresco (who claims similar neighborhood roots), Tommy is the only brother who isn’t a low-grade moron, and as a bonus — returning to a “Godfather” analogy that’s too good for this show — his hand doesn’t shake in moments of crisis.

Without giving away too much about the serialized five episodes previewed, circumstances risk bringing the wrath of both the Italian and Irish mobsters that occupy the ‘hood down on the Donnellys, forcing Tommy to intervene. This strains his long-simmering itch for Jenny and yields lots of prolonged, anguished looks.

“Star Trek: Voyager’s” Kate Mulgrew eventually turns up as the boys’ mother, without much to do, while the lingering threat of mob violence produces occasional moments of tension (one psychopath struts around with an ax) but precious little that’s on a level with the worst episode of “The Sopranos.”

None of the characters really pop beyond the halo-encircled Tommy, and even as antiheroes, the brothers aren’t particularly likable. More problematic, there’s no sense of the stakes or where this is ultimately heading, as each episode opens pretentiously with an onscreen quote and then segues to Joey’s hyperactive narration.

“Studio 60” didn’t set the ratings standard especially high in this Monday timeslot, but after the curiosity evoked by this new pilot’s ending is quenched in the second episode, it isn’t a stretch to foresee the “Donnellys” limbo-ing under that bar. Indeed, at various points, it’s easy to hope Tommy will think of himself and let Darwinian principles run their course, prompting a title change to “The Lonely Donnelly.” As is, it’s a dreary stroll along the seedy side, where a woman who crosses the brothers’ path can only ask, “What kind of people are you?”

They’re the Black Donnellys, dammit. Hear them mumble.

Popular on Variety

The Black Donnellys

NBC, Mon. Feb. 26, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New York by Blackfriars Bridge Films in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. Executive producers, Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco; co-executive producers, Mark R. Harris, Sean Whitesell; supervising producer, Jeff F. King; producers, James Bigwood, Rafael Alvarez; co-producers, Kim Clements, Dana Maksimovich; director, Haggis; writers, Haggis, Moresco.

Crew: Camera, J. Michael Muro; editor, Jo Francis; music, Mark Isham; production designer, Rick Butler; casting, Alexa L. Fogel. Running time: 60 MIN.

With: Nicky Cottero - Kirk Acevedo Jimmy Donnelly - Thomas Guiry Kevin Donnelly - Billy Lush Joey Ice Cream - Keith Nobbs Sean Donnelly - Michael Stahl-David Tommy Donnelly - Jonathan Tucker Jenny Reilly - Olivia Wilde

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content