• "Ash Wednesday" is a 2002 film written, directed by, and starring Ed Burns. The story concerns one day, Ash Wednesday, and the events that happen on that day to two Irish-American brothers, Francis (Burns) and Sean (Elijah Wood). Three years earlier, Sean, while tending bar, overheard two thugs plan to kill Francis over money he owed, so Sean took them out. In order to keep him from being killed, Francis, a neighborhood priest, and a mobster fake Sean's death while he goes to Texas to hide out. Unfortunately, on the evening before this particular Ash Wednesday, Sean, who has returned to his brother's apartment, decides to go to a neighborhood bar for a drink. There he's spotted by several people, including an ex-girlfriend of Francis' who wants to get even with Sean's brother for dumping her.

    In the Catholic church and in several other religions, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the period of time preceding Easter. People go to church and receive a cross in ashes on their forehead to remind them of death, of the sorrow they should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing their lives. Normally during Lent people make some sort of sacrifice. Francis, who with his father was a hit man, is surrounded by death and under constant threat of it. The sacrifice he makes is somewhat drastic.

    This was an interesting movie with some good performances, particularly by Burns. The Irish atmosphere, with the dimly lit bar, the beer-drinking, the Catholocism, and the sense of family, is right on. Elijah Wood, however, is absurd casting. He is too childlike and seems terribly out of place.

    My problem with this film is that it's based on a ridiculous premise. Why, when you know you're supposed to be dead in order to risk being killed, would you after only 3 years walk into a neighborhood bar and have a drink? I can understand coming back and contacting your family - from somewhere else - and going out for a drink in another area. But the plot for me is built on a moronic idea that this guy was in his brother's apartment above the bar - dangerous enough - and then just for the helluva it went out. I just didn't buy it.

    This is a dark film about sad people with sad lives. Much of what happened on Ash Wednesday could have been avoided if Sean had just stayed hidden. Certainly the script could have been written to make the plot more believable, to in a sense force Sean to return - finding out he had a child, learning his wife was sick, his mother was dying, whatever. Given the way it was done, the film did not work for me. I don't recommend it unless you want to be depressed and frustrated.