Ash Wednesday so titled because the action takes place on that day of repentance in the Catholic faith and into Lent. Leading character Edward Burns who directed as well keeps the ash cross on his forehead until almost the end of the film. Almost as if he was looking for protection. He and brother Elijah Wood sure needed it.
They play the Sullivan brothers at one time sons of a prominent Irish mobster. Seems as though the Wood killed a pair of Italian hoodlums and their relations are looking for payback.
Burns and local priest James Handy have created a fiction that Wood is dead and spirited him out of town where he's lived in Texas for 3 years. Now Wood is back to get his wife Rosario Dawson who has thought her husband was dead, part of the plan to make the death story believable.
Burns is well out of the rackets, but in his effort to protect his brother he's being dragged back in. Wood doesn't make it easy for him either.
Ash Wednesday is a nice if cheaply made film about family loyalty and sacrifice in a working class Irish American family. Note that this is set in the early 80s when Hell's Kitchen still had some working class blocks. It's pretty yuppified now, so Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood stands in. This was the same setting for the Sean Connery/Dustin Hoffman/Matthew Broderick film Family Business which was done in the late 80s and also about family as well.
The characters are well drawn with no stereotyping at all. James Handy is not a typical priest by any means. No comparison to him and Bing Crosby as Father O'Malley in another film which also was set in Hell's Kitchen when it really was Irish working class.
Burns and Wood have good chemistry as brothers. Ash Wednesday has some fine characterizations done by some talented players.
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