• I first watched this a number of years ago, stumbling in from the pub after a few too many, and I seem to recall rather enjoying it. As is often the case however, on re-viewing it a second time, stone cold sober, I've completely changed my mind…

    First, let's talk about the good things. The photography was excellent, the direction was good, and the casting was inspired in some cases: Malachi McCourt (younger brother of Frank McCourt, of Angela's Ashes fame) as Whitey, and James Handy as the parish priest were both noteworthy, in relatively small parts, but that same casting was monumentally awful in the case of Elijah Wood… If ever an actor was born not to play his part, he is that man… This was even worse than his miscast in 'Green Street', which was so bad it was almost watchable… I thought Rosario Dawson was good in a diluted, under-used sort of way, and looked most delicious in heavy makeup (this is set in the early 80's, remember), and even the man himself, Edward Byrne was believable in places (BTW, note to others-always refer to him as 'Edward'-Ed Byrne is an Irish comedian, which when reviewing this film could get very confusing)… The only really obvious fault here was the woeful waste of Oliver Platt-if you can book talent like him, then you really should use him!..

    I had no problem with the linearity of the plot-after all, the whole film takes place over less than 24 hours, so keeping it simple was probably the best thing to do-and if you watched shaking your head in disbelief at the asinine stupidity of some of the characters, watch 'State of Grace'-an infinitely better film, also set in the criminal underbelly of Hell's Kitchen, the consensus is that these are stupid people doing stupid things…

    Now the bad bit-and it's simply so bad it lets down the whole film, taking it from what could have been a decent pot-boiler into a risible farce-it's the dialogue-Edward Byrne is credited as the only writer, and it soon becomes obvious that this is simply not his field. The whole film sounds like it's been written by a 12 year-old… I know these are supposed to be 'stupid Mick immigrants of different generations', but really-people (adult people) just don't talk like that!.. It's not the swearing (although God knows, there's enough of it), it's the complete lack of subtlety, double-entendres, jokes & banter-all the things that make up daily conversations… When it's missing, you really notice it… The only really believable conversations are those that Pat McNamara (the barman, Murph) has with his customers-and those may seem more realistic simply because they were ad-libbed… Michael Leydon Campbell as Jimmy Burke was funny, but his were just comments and interjections-no-one really engaged with him… The rest is just too awful for words (pun intended)… And this makes the thing difficult to watch-you'll end up shouting at the screen , losing your temper, and not enjoying the film… It's a shame, because it should have been such an easy thing to fix…

    So, I'm afraid my advice is this… If you see 'Ash Wednesday' advertised in your listings, and you've never seen it-give it a go by all means, but don't say I didn't warn you-personally, I'll be watching 'State of Grace' or 'Road to Perdition' instead