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  • Warning: Spoilers
    I never understood what the big deal about Edward Burns was about. I mean, he surely is likable, but none of his writer-director-actor-ventures have amazed me at all. Given the right role he can do a convincing and entertaining job, but for me, that's about it.

    "Ash Wednesday" isn't really a disaster, but it feels as if it was close to becoming one. All the way the movie feels only halfway good or bad, always going along a thin line of ambiguous quality. In the end (and especially in the final scene) the bad qualities win and the movie leaves you deeply unsatisfied.

    Fran (Edward Burns) lives above a bar in Hell's Kitchen. He once was a crook, but has now become "clean", which means he has a job (of which we don't see a lot) and, well, doesn't seem to kill a lot of people anymore. Three years ago his brother Shaun (Elijah Wood) killed some guys who wanted to kill Fran and vanished afterwards, presumably being dead. But now people are talking about him reappearing in the neighborhood and Fran has to deal with the rumors and his old enemies.

    I don't even know if this sounds interesting enough to watch the movie. When I saw it, I had no clue what it was about and maybe that was the reason it slightly intrigued me at first. But the fascination didn't last long, especially once you realize that Burns will spend a lot of time of the movie running around town talking to people. Which wouldn't be that bad, but if you listen to the dialog you realize that it gets rather repetitious.

    I didn't count but there must be at least 5 conversations that develop in exactly the same way. Somebody tells Fran his brother is supposed to be alive after all, he denies it, the other one doesn't believe it, both go on. This isn't the most exciting idea of communication in the first place and various instances of it doesn't make it better, but if, in addition to that, those conversations are put together so that one just follows another for half an hour, it gets rather frustrating.

    What is even more irritating is the complete lack of suspense here. How can any viewer seriously believe that Shaun is really dead? We're talking Elijah Wood here and that makes it pretty much 100% certain that he will sooner or later turn up in the movie again. The only point of suspense could come from the question whether Fran knows his brother is alive or not. But that's about it.

    And that's about much of the movie too. It takes about 30 minutes till we find out what's the deal with the dead brother. From then on nothing of importance seems to happen. There are a lot of guys who want to kill both brothers. There is Shaun's supposed widow/wife and a priest who knows a lot. All of the roles are thankless. Elijah Wood has to deliver a monologue during which may wonder if he can't deliver it convincingly or if it is written so bad that no one could deliver it. I think it's a bit of both, but the scene is either way painful to watch. Oliver Platt is also in this movie, but there is simply nothing to say about him or his role. Same goes for Rosario Dawson who..., well is just there.

    David Shire's music follows Burns' character for his first half of repeating the same dialog by repeating the same theme over and over again. The movie looks pale and dry, almost lifeless. There is some editing, especially in the final scene, that is inexcusable. Religious symbolism floats through the movie, looking for a place to make sense (again, especially in the last shot). The use of the F-word is so excessive, you wonder if the characters get a bonus for every time they use it. And there is one flashback scene (apart from the first one) that is as pointless as pointless can be.

    And then there is the end. We get a rather conventional shootout finale and think, well, that's a fine way to end a movie, even if it's not really good. But then come the last shots and it completely destroys a movie which wasn't particularly good anyway. The ending gives you no satisfaction, no sense of righteousness or penance, nothing. In the end, there is nothing really appealing to this film.
  • October 14, 2004. I viewed this film last night and I must say that I was in suspense the entire film. I truly believed that the younger brother was in imminent danger. The older brother (Ed Burns) was in danger as well. Trying to convince his brother of his stupidity was done not with yelling or shouting, but understated by a character who by his admissions had lived two lifetimes by the age of thirty.

    I am a movie fan who does not expect "Gone With The Wind" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" with every film I watch. This film had an excellent cast who performed beautifully. The director kept an even pace throughout because of the impending double-twist surprise ending.

    One gifted actor, who never gets enough credit from the public, only his peers and producers and directors is James Handy (Father Mahoney). I see him constantly appearing in one movie after another as well as numerous guest-starring appearances on TV. He was especially "despicable and conniving" on N.Y.P.D.Blue. Usually plays unsympathetic characters. He, like the rest of the cast were truly believable.

    I don't know whether or not you'll be talking about this film for years and years. But I do know that most of you will enjoy this approximately 90 minutes of suspenseful entertainment, will recommend viewing to your friends and may watch this film a second and third time. I know I will!!
  • "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.
  • meeza6 March 2003
    `Ash Wednesday' is the latest installment by actor/writer/director Edward Burns. The film was released in just a few theaters back in October of 2002. Because of its limited release, it did not have a `prayer' in making a profit. `Ash Wednesday' possesses the usual first-degree `burnisms': irish rituals, catholic guilt, sibling codependence, love triangle, and lots of heineken chugging. Because of its serious dramatic tone, it did lack the witty banter of most of Burns' other films. Burns and Elijah Wood play Irish catholic brothers- francis & sean sullivan. Francis must protect his younger brother Sean from an Irish mob who are suspicious that he is still alive even though he was presumed dead 3 years ago. The film is set in one entire Ash Wednesday in New York's Hells Kitchen during the early 80's. I do commend Burns' by writing & directing out of the box and providing us a more dramatically intense film. However, Eddie please make sure you return and make more jocose romantic comedies because that is where your fire really burns! **** Excellent
  • LatigoMeans14 November 2004
    First of all, it could have been shorter due to the redundant establishment of the primary story line. A couple more scenes of Ed Burns walking around the streets with that boring musical theme and I may have given up on this film.

    Elijah Wood was totally miscast. A more wrong casting of the role of Sean is not imaginable. OK, maybe imaginable if you include Pee Wee Herman. I agree with another writer here that Oliver Platt could've gotten some more dialog and scenes, but that's what it is. He probably liked the idea of playing a heavy for a change. He should do more I think.

    I figured the closing scenes to a "T"... from the saloon showdown to the reason for the crew cap and peacoat. I claim no particular brilliance, it seemed pretty obvious.

    All in all I'd say watch it when it appears on cable, save the rental fee. A 6.5 - 7.0 rating is generous but I like Ed Burns, stories about Irish street hoods and a plus when it's Hells Kitchen in NYC instead of the Southies. No offense Boston.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I've read all the posts and I can't believe the low ratings this movie has received from other viewers. My only guess is that they must not "get" this film.

    I just watched Ed Burn's 2002 Ash Wednesday on the IFC Channel for the first time. Prior to this viewing I had seen all of the previous and subsequent films that Mr. Burn had written, directed or starred in, and, quite frankly, even though I enjoy his work, I recognize that his movies would be of rather limited appeal to the general audience. His pictures are small, deliberate, cogent, authentic, but I would never here-to-fore have described any of them as great, or myself as a fan, but…

    That's all changed with this viewing. Set in 1980s Hell's Kitchen it is a story of murder, redemption and eventual salvation. The story and the characters could have been any Catholic minority in any period or location, and the Hell's Kitchen of the movie, regardless how fictional, had a veracity that reverberated with my experiences growing up on the mean streets of Southeast San Diego in the 60s. The same tight-lipped hard guys and gangsters, the same cycles of violence, revenge and retribution. It could just as easily been filmed about Logan Heights here or Compton up in L.A. Spare dialog, taut action, tight direction. Nice to see a gangster film without huge explosions, car chases, a million rounds fired or an astronomical body count. Quite realistic. All in all a very satisfying movie, possibly a great one.

    Elijah Wood is a perfect cast for the younger brother innocent of his father's & older brother's deadly exploits, and who, in an attempt to save his older brother from the three men sent to kill him, sets up the scenario for the action of the film. Oliver Platt and Malachy McCourt were great as the local gangsters that Francis Sullivan (Ed Burns) must appease, and each and every other actor in this film is put to good use. I found the action, pacing, locations, set ups, lighting, dialog, camera-work, editing and direction to be of good caliber. A smart little film with nary a single Hollywood moment. Ash Wednesday proves to be what Mr. Burn's films have always been: small, deliberate, cogent, authentic.
  • =G=23 February 2003
    In "Ash Wednesday", Burns spins a yarn about a Hell's Kitchen bar owner with a checkered past (Burns) whose younger brother (Wood), who's supposed to be dead, has been seen in the neighborhood (duh) giving rise to inquires from all corners while igniting the plot. In typical Burns fashion, this story about low level Irish-American hoods, is a Mulligan stew of relationships and the non-stop yammering required to explain them and give them impetus. Burns keeps his story in a box, revealing a piece at a time, ostensibly to create suspense, while leaving a trail of gaping plot holes necessary to make the story work. In addition to such dents and dings as having the bro prep to leave town while conveniently leaving his wallet at home to be discovered by the bad guys (duh), Burns makes another huge mistake. The protagonists, whom we're supposed to care about otherwise there's no reason to watch, are all murders. (duh) "Ash Wednesday" is a dark, gritty shoot recommended only for fans of the principals and people into bottom of the marquee crimeland flicks. (C+)
  • DizzyDitz11 April 2003
    Not good at all. This movie was boring despite my best efforts to like it. You know the story from reading summaries, but let me say this: Elijah Wood is not at all convincing as someone from the Bronyx living amongst mobsters and murders. The movie drags on and on, endlessly repeating the same dull concepts. One is left thinking of ten million ways that the characters could be smarter. Sorry for the horridness: but this was quite bad.
  • meeza11 March 2003
    `Ash Wednesday' is the latest installment by Actor/Writer/Director Edward Burns. The film was released in just a few theaters back in October of 2002. Because of its limited release, it did not have a `prayer' in making a profit. `Ash Wednesday' possesses the usual first-degree `Burnisms': Irish rituals, catholic guilt, sibling codependence, love triangle, and lots of Heineken chugging. Because of its serious dramatic tone, it did lack the witty banter of most of Burns' other films. Burns and Elijah Wood play Irish catholic brothers- Francis & Sean Sullivan. Francis must protect his younger brother Sean from an Irish mob who are suspicious that he is still alive even though he was presumed dead 3 years ago. The film is set in one entire Ash Wednesday in New York's Hells Kitchen during the early 80's. I do commend Burns by writing & directing out of the box and providing us a more dramatically intense film. However, Eddie please make sure you return and make more jocose romantic comedies because that is where your fire really burns! ****Excellent
  • emuir-14 September 2005
    Since when did smart dialogue have to use obscenities as adjectives? this film did not ring true as no one, wherever you go, uses the profanity and obscenities which fell out of the sewer mouths of these moronic characters and they slurped through one drink after another. They drank from morning to night yet still remained standing. Whatever became of style and wit? The film is amateurish and woefully miscast. Elijah Wood was FAR too young and cherubic to play a married man with a child.

    The only saving grace was Malachi McCourt who fit the part of the local Irish kingpin perfectly with a saintly appearance which belied his gangster livelihood. This was one of those heavy-handed films where what was coming next whacked you over the head without any subtlety. The film was a poor man's rip off of Saving Grace.
  • This is a film about an ex mafia leader getting into trouble with gangs because his dead brother reappeared in the neighbourhood.

    The film is initially boring because of poor character development. The film does not tell people what is happening very well, and only towards the middle do people get an idea what on earth was in fact happening. Elijah Wood is obviously miscast. Elijah Wood is very unconvincing as Edward Burns' younger brother, in fact he looks more like the son of Edward Burns. Looks, height, age and physique wise they are too different from each other. This makes the film a lot less credible than it should have been. Otherwise, the plot is not bad, the direction is good, and the sets are nicely done.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When i saw this film at my local video store, i was immediately attracted to it considering that i am a fan of gangster films myself such as Tarantino's early work and of course the brilliant Mr Scorsese and the cover and back cover blurb provided me with the impression that what i was about to be viewing was similar to a "reservoir dogs" style feature and subsequently something that i would be comfortable with. A competent cast including Edward Burns, Elijah WOod and Rosario Dawson not to mention other smaller named yet equally impressive actors also cemented the impression that this would be a good film but at the conclusion of the film and its ridiculously predictable ending, i was left thinking that this was a potentially brilliant film but it just didn't quite cut it.

    An edward burns directed feature, "ash Wednesday" is based in 1980's Hell's Kitchen New York in which Francis (played quite solidly by Ed Burns) is a reformed man; reformed from the ways of murder and crime that is so common in his neighbourhood. slowly but surely, through the weaving of time and the painstakingly slow emergence of dialogue, we are presented with the story of his little brother, Sean (Elijah Wood) who had somehow (not wishing to reveal here) plunged himself into a deadly situation where the local thugs of the neighbourhood wished him to be dead. His arm was later found, and the neighbourhood presumed a bloody and horrible demise That was three years ago. Now, Francis has been facing rumours throughout the neighbourhood that his little brother, Sean, despite being accepted as dead, has come back to the neighbourhood and is alive and well. So, what are the consequences of this? Obviously, the thugs that thought sean to be dead now want to know what the hell is going on, and through their somewhat violent nature, are supposedly going to wreak havoc throughout the entire neighbourhood if sean is still alive. that's what I though was going to happen. its a simple plot, and one that i thought would have been developed into many more layers to keep our interest. but i was left with nothing, and the film emerged as simple as the blurb that described it. with sean's old wife being thrown into the mix and an incredibly weak allusion to the mafia and the mob, edward burns has really created a film without much substance whatsoever.

    elijah wood is seriously miscast as Ed Burn's little brother, Sean, and is completely unbelievable as a married man, especially betrothed to the likes of rosario dawson who could more believably be cast as his mother. the plot was underdeveloped, and even though this didn't turn out to be the gangster film i was looking for, i was still interested in the emergence of the reunification of these two estranged brothers and the emergence of their love for one another. i barely saw it. no disrespect to Mr Burns because it is quite evident that there was an attempt at portraying the love of these brothers, but when the likes of Good Will Hunting and Raging Bull have set the standards of showing the frailties of human nature, "ash Wednesday" was far from developing interest the way that it had the potential to do.

    however, excellent acting from a talented young cast as well as other supporting actors ensured a credible film but an underdeveloped one nonetheless. The dialogue is good, but doesn't tie in enough with the overall plot and hence ensures a thick wad of words that was unnecessary but was nonetheless typical of Burns' slick writing ability. Usually, it works, but that style of writing wasn't appropriate for this film and hence didn't amp it up the way that tricky dialogue generally does for film. the cinematography and camera work was simple yet quite effective, and the editing did its job as well. The narrative structure that was used also worked and burns, to give him his required credit, has used an effective way to tell the story through keeping the audience themselves in the dark and slowly drawing us thicker into the plot. thus, it would have been brilliant, if the plot we were being drawn into was any good. but, like i mentioned before, it was too simple.

    all in all, "ash Wednesday" is a simple movie with too much baggage and not enough substance. good acting lifted it up, but the miscasting of Elijah Wood (as talented as he is) as Sean heaved whatever credibility the film had out the window. Burns indicates his tremendous potential as a big time film director, but just doesn't perform with this fairly weak feature film. i just hope that sometime in the future he will have the time to re-do it, and carve a piece of art out of this potential masterpiece. however, i have no doubt we'll be seeing better things out of Mr Burns and, on that note, I look forward to watching his next film.
  • 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
  • jotix10028 November 2004
    Warning: Spoilers
    Edward Burns' start in films with "The Brothers McMullan", heralded good things for this New York based director, who likes to depict his Irish background in his pictures. Unfortunately, his career has taken a southward detour. He hasn't done anything worthy of his talents in a while. Even with the uneven "Sidewalks of New York", he found a voice, while in "Ash Wednesday", he is doing it by the numbers.

    First of all, his story is supposedly based in a Hell's Kitchen that could only exists in the director's mind, as most of it is just a fantasy. Has Mr. Burns taken a tour of this part of town lately? Well, he'd be surprised in how gentrified and sophisticated it has become, quite a departure for the times when it was the turf of ethnic gangs of the 50s. For that matter, it would be hard to find a few good Irish people that are attracted to the area.

    Some spoilers herein.

    The plot is not well developed. It's hard to realize how stupid Sean is, knowing full well he is a marked man and going for a drink in the old 'hood... Oh well, he must had been suffering from cabin fever, or other similar ailment. Then, there is the story of the involvement of Francis with Grace, Sean's woman. Frances and Grace are evidently acting in two different movies as they have no chemistry. It's hard to believe these two had something going.

    Elijah Wood, as Sean, is badly out of place. He is totally miscast. For that matter, the director, himself, doesn't fare much better. Ms. Dawson, also, doesn't have anything to do. The assorted bad guys one sees in the film are just not believable.

    The other horrible thing this movie has going for it, is the silly musical theme of the few bars played on the piano.

    Better luck next time Mr. Burns, or perhaps on your next film why not give us an incisive view of the world of supermodels, or how can one make a lot of money in advertising since you are an expert in those fields lately?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had a few problems with this movie, ranging from small - Burns' ash-cross looking different in every scene, to medium - the same music playing during their 2nd beers as was playing when they entered the bar, to undeniably wrong... The thing I have the biggest problem with is the onset of events. The movie starts on ash Wednesday when Sean kills 3 local men who are about to kill his brother, Francis. Somehow, in the space of a couple hours, a hit-man from California is dispatched to kill Sean but Francis kills the guy, puts Sean's watch and ring on his severed arm and that's how Sean's death is rigged (so why DIDN'T Francis have the watch now?). IMO you can't build an entire movie around this implausible timeline. Also, it didn't help that Sean's son, who he never knew about and therefore can't be more that 2 years and 4 months old, looks like he's going on Five. Also, Sean looks pretty pale to have been farming in Texas for 3 years :-\
  • Ash Wednesday is a story set in 1980's Hell's Kitchen, where two brothers, Sean (Elijah Wood) and Frances Sullivan (Ed Burns), are involved in the seedy Irish gangs that permeate the neighborhood. When Sean kills 3 men to save his older brother on Ash Wednesday of 1980, he is presumably killed. Now, 3 years later, sightings of Sean around the neighborhood arouse suspicions and stir up old feelings of enmity and revenge.

    This film is a noble experiment, except that it fails dramatically. Ed Burns is a talented director, whose films are always interesting and stylishly shot (with some truly breath-taking uses of selective camera focus and lens choices). While the overall appearance of the film is quite beautiful and symbolic (sometimes, too much so), there is not much to say for the rest of it.

    It seems as if the only character Ed Burns can play is himself and that the only schpiel that Elijah Wood can actually pull off believably is that of tortured innocence a la "Frodo" in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. To be fair, Wood is horribly mis-cast in this film, as even I find it difficult to believe that wide-eyed Wood is supposed to be a 22-year old murderer who grew up on the tough streets of Hell's Kitchen and is married to a much older-looking Rosario Dawson, saddled with a toddler.

    There are plot holes in this film that are big enough for a tornado to whip through them. If one thinks about it, the characters in this film behave as if they have the brains of a squished grape for supposedly street-smart men (Sean leaving his highly-identifiable wallet in his coat? Sitting in the front seat of a car under a street light when on the run? Hell, just going out in the neighborhood when he is supposed to be dead is idiotic).

    As for the rest of the characters of the film...I just don't understand. Half of them were of little use to the overall story while the "hardened" detective stuck out like a monkey in a chicken coop. He was, perhaps, the most useless character of all, standing around in the scenery, issuing out badly-acted, emotion-less threats of menace. And let's not get into the nemesis of the brothers, the "bad guy" that the audience is clearly supposed to boo - he had all the evil intensity of a paper bag.

    The camera work in this film, while innovative in some areas, also robs us of emotional involvement in a story that clearly depends on it. The near-lack of close ups, or even medium shots, is frustrating. Also, Burns is quite well known for his use of hand-held camera work, and while I think that he employs this use very well, he also misuses it in this film. I would say that the best-shot sequence of the film is during the very first scene. In fact, it is the only scene where I could sense any true emotion at all (it probably helped that Elijah Wood was not speaking).

    And just to be nit-picky, the piano-esque score of the film, while interesting and moody at first, quickly descended into repetitive and irritating. Unfortunately, one hears it throughout the entire film and the pain just never ends.

    Unfortunately, bad acting, bad dialogue, and a bad, predictable script could not make up for the wonderful look of this film. If you want to watch an intense religion'n'violence flick about two close brothers that is also stylishly fulfilling - go rent The Boondock Saints.
  • LauraM94514 January 2003
    I just had a chance to see this film and I really enjoyed it. From the description of the plot, I was expecting a typical violent film. This surprised me by being subtle and realistic, with no glorification of violence. I find myself thinking about the characters and wanting to see it again.

    Overall an excellent cast, though I did wish we could see their faces a little more clearly at times, or in close up. The film has its style, but I wanted to connect a little more with the characters.

    The script did a nice job of maintaining tension even though the outcome felt inevitable. I recommend it.
  • 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.
  • I really liked this movie. The background music set a perfect tone for this gritty film noir-ish indie. I thought many of the scenes were artistically framed using shadows, tilts and overhead shots. Also, great acting performances and/or screen presence by James Handy (priest), Oliver Platt, Malachy McCourt, Rosario Dawson, Ed Burns, John Coleman and Gregg Bello.

    A few drawbacks from not giving the movie a top rating: I thought Elijah Wood was miscast (although on 2nd and 3rd viewing I could accept him—and even got to like his performance—but it's the initial impression that usually makes or breaks it for a viewer). And I also was a bit turned off by the endless foul language.

    But all in all, a dark, moody artistic little movie that kept my attention throughout.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    OK, it wasn't the best drama I've ever seen. But, it wasn't complete torture. I won't waste time discussing the plot, as it was relatively easy to follow. Edward Burns directed, wrote, and starred in this movie. What a chore. I give him points for his acting and for his incredible ability to multi-task, but he loses points for the repetition of the story. One user said that Burns's character spent most of the movie walking around NYC talking to people, and they were quite right. The movie took nearly 30 minutes to actually become "clear", and even then it was still vague.

    Elijah Wood is my favorite actor, and he is a very talented one. However, he seems quite out of place here. Forgive me, Elijah. I mean no disrespect to him, but maybe Burns should have looked for someone slightly older. I can see why he wanted Wood, as Wood has an inner innocence about him, but he seemed as if his character were from a totally different family. Not his fault, I'm sure. And for those of you who keep saying that Wood plays the same character roles in all of his movies, I have one movie for you: Sin City. I rest my case. Perhaps Burns's should have cast a 25-year-old instead of a 20-year-old. (Yes, Wood was 20 when this movie was shot, not 17, as he appears.)

    The ending was a total letdown. It was a very fatalistic approach, but it made the entire movie pointless! How could you go for 2 hours trying to establish that Burns's character has to save Wood's, and then just--bang!--take out your main character? It just doesn't work. I remember sitting there and going, "What? That's it?!" A good idea, but not for an ending to a movie like this.

    I would like to see better movies from Burns in the future, as he is not a bad writer/actor/director, but maybe not another movie like this. He should stop with Mob movies. And the other movies I have starring Elijah Wood are much better ones (except Day Zero). My apologies.

    6/10, for some choice moments. If you look, you may be able to pick them out.
  • tysonatthemovies10 December 2008
    I completely disagree with the below comments. This film was stellar. I have been searching for a compelling film with the subject of the Irish mob. This movie is suspenseful without glorifying mob violence. The main actors portraying the sons of a once powerful figure in the Irish mob seems pretty authentic. The mob action is good. Also, despite the fact that this seems to be a lower budget independent film, there are high production values. The gritty lighting of the movie helped set the tone. The only real weakness I can think of is that there is not a sequel or a prequel showing Francis Sullivan's past life. That would make for a good mob movie. One plot question I had was how Sean Sullivan had money to just live in Texas, then again he did get a job as a farmer out there. All of the supporting cast portray their characters with low key class, which makes their performances seem quite believable. The musical score was good, and the soundtrack of early eighties rock provided excellent time period setting markers.
  • Enchorde17 February 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    Recap: Sean is working in a bar in Hell's Kitchen and suddenly hears three men by the bar planning to kill his older brother. Being the son of a known gangster he feels that he has only one option, kill the men. However, three dead men hardly goes unnoticed and some people want revenge. Best for Sean to disappear or he will end up dead. Or did he die? Now three years later people swears that they have seen him in his old neighborhood.

    Comments: This is a great drama. The movie gradually builds suspense like a bubble that must burst sometimes. That will keep you on the edge, because you won't want to miss it. You know that when the end comes, stuff is gonna happen (not gonna tell you what!).

    What keep popping up though is the cinematics, the angles and different shots. Burns, as both director and writer, has chosen to shoot scenes in some unusual but very spectacular ways. Through windows, in mirrors, with obstacles in the way. The composition of every scene and shot seems very well thought through and that elevates the entire experience to another level. If you enjoy stuff like that, you should definitely watch this.

    7/10
  • ajaeger2221 February 2005
    This was a great movie....it warmed the cockles of my heart, and even the sub-cockles. I think those were cockles anyway. Edward Burns has not turned in a performance like this since Edward Scissorhands. A disgruntled ex, Irish guys drinking during the day, the cold streets of Hells Kitchen, a Bimbo in Brookylyn, Itiallians with an Axe to grind and plastic on their couches, a bastard child, and a ending with more of a twist than Chubby Checker. It had all the elements of classic, so treat yourself to a 6" Turkey and Cheese from Subway, a Diet Dr.Pepper and enjoy this magical mystery ride that will delight your senses and captivate your soul. Eat Fresh.
  • This was a good movie, "not a great movie" but a good one. Edward Burns role was well played yet could have offered more depth of character. The look & feel of Hells Kitchen was very well done & believable. The script didn't offer deep enough insight into the development of many of the important/power players roles, yet I thought that all of the roles were still cast very well & were all very believable. That is except Elijah Wood, even if you could get over his impeccable language skills, his too young, overly clean cut looks & complete ignorance to the ways of the neighborhood that he spent the 1st 18 yrs. of his life in. You still can't see him married to a Rican woman (which I am), remember, this is hells kitchen, not exactly a racial Eden. His brother, yes but him, no way (Not enough crust on that white bread). All & all, I still liked the movie and would watch it again & suggest it to particular cult movie followers I know. I heard allot of complaints about the language, this was not a problem for me, this is Hells Kitchen & these are not exactly bankers here (well except Elijah). I have heard that a sequel might be a possibility, I actually hope so. All of the same players "minus Elijah" with a little better character development could be something good. Maybe the first 30 minutes or so of the film devoted to developing the Ash Wednesday story from childhood to the killing, thus more fully developing all of the important players before moving on to the new story line. Good movie, deep ending, good actors, good story, but a bit underdeveloped in the last 2 areas. Still worth seeing if you like the local mob struggle/Hells Kitchen type story lines. Don't expect the Godfather & you won't be disappointed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    After posting a review on this movie and then reading other postings, I finally figured out why the movie ended the way it did.

    In another posting, the reviewer was pointing out how dumb it was to put on a P-coat and cap of someone that every hit man would have their eyes open for. That's just asking to be killed. I believe Ed Burns' character figures that is the best way to end a lot of things - people looking for his brother, his own 'fall off the wagon' of going straight, and the affair with his brother's wife that he knew was a low thing to do, given the fact that she didn't know her husband was still alive. And being Catholic, to commit suicide is a mortal sin - one that prevents entry into heaven. Just let someone else kill him and his soul won't be eternally damned.

    Of course, this just opens things up for the younger brother to want to come back to seek revenge, and this movie fully demonstrates the futility of revenge upon revenge.

    I generally don't like to give too much details about movies so that other viewers can enjoy it and form their own opinions. However, the ending seems a little deeper (if somewhat wasteful) with my new found understanding, than just another killing in the vicious circle of revenge.
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