The Pope of Greenwich Village

The Pope of Greenwich Village
The Pope of Greenwich Village

Mister, I am the pope.  This might be your church, but right now I’m the Pope of Greenwich Village

Let’s start by setting the record straight.  I have no idea why I’ve never seen this movie before now.  It’s one of those movies that I’m “supposed” to have seen and one I’ve always wanted to.  Somehow I just never got around to it.
Lately, with all the hype surrounding Mickey Rourke and his role in The Wrestler this one has been mentioned a lot.  When I saw it was going to be playing on IFC a week or so ago, I hit the record button.  I knew the wife was going to be out of town one night this week and I’d get a chance to watch it.
I’m really glad I did.
Set in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, The Pope of Greenwich Village tells the story of two down on their luck cousins, Paulie (Eric Roberts) and Charlie (Mickey Rouke).  The cast also includes Darryl Hannah and Burt Young.

Charlie is a matire’d with visions of owning his own restaurant away from the city.  Paulie is his fuck up cousin who is always looking for a quick bug and a big break.  Charlie’s familial devotion to Paulie is his undoing.
The duo, along with an aging safecracker decide to knock off a trucking company for 50 grand.  They end up with 150 grand and a pissed off gangster on their trail.  It seems that Paulie, the “mastermind’ behind the robbery, failed to mention that the trucking company was owned by local mobster Bedbug (Burt Young).
Bad things ensue.
Rourke and Roberts are both at the top of their games here.  Rourke is a man conflicted by his family ties and dreams.  Roberts is goofy, annoying and pathetic.  Somehow neither overplays it.
Watching this movie some 25 years after its release you’re immediately struck by how far the two very talented leads fell and how quickly it happened.  Whatever demons Rouke and Roberts fought during the 80s, this movie stands the test of time.  The praise is well deserved.  Its a solid character study.
I found myself amused as Burt Young, so famous for his portrayal of Rocky Balboa’s brother-in-law Paulie, was interrogating Roberts’ Paulie.  It had to be odd for Young to be calling someone else by famous character name over and over.
Either that or I’m easily amused.
So, was The Pope of Greenwich Village worth the two and half decade wait?  Absolutely.

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