Review: ‘Ray Donovan’ lights up summer for Showtime

Showtime hits it out of the pahhk with "Ray Donovan," a compelling tour de force that pits two patriarchs in the same family against each other. <p></p> <p>All of this done while navigating a fish out of wa-tah Southie (South Boston) "come up" out in Calabasas, CA., a well-heeled LA suburb atop Malibu, where a load of stars, producers and industry types really do live (including M&C’s California headquarters). </p> <p></p> <p>There’s a running gag that wears a little thin, as the 91302 is constantly slagged by a smartass, Ezra’s (Elliott Gould) partner Lee (Peter Jacobson), who employs our Ray Donovan to help mitigate his client’s sexual shenanigans. Even Ray’s wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) gets in on the digs, calling Calabasas "the Jersey Shore" of LA? Hardly. That was, is and always will be Encino, Hermosa or Manhattan Beach.</p> <p>Showtime is having a fabulous run of great programming (okay I’m not singing the praises of "Gigolos, even though that Brace IS hilarious) with "Homeland," "Episodes," "Dexter," "Nurse Jackie" and "House of Lies."</p> <p>"Ray Donovan" delivers us two lions: Tony-winner Liev Schreiber (Ray) and his newly sprung dad Mickey (Oscar-winner Jon Voight) and both men give some of the best performances of their impressive careers. I mean, Jon Voight just lights the frames on fire, and you’d be a sad bastard to miss any of it. So don’t!</p> <p>***image3:center***</p> <p> </p> <p>Schreiber is our titular Ray, a "Pulp Fiction" "Wolf" (Harvey Keitel) type who takes it a step further, as a "fixer" for the deep pocketed powerful clients of a law firm run by mentor Ezra (Elliott Gould) and Ezra’s partner Lee (Peter Jacobson). </p> <p>Liev Schreiber belongs to that small club of actors who convey a page of dialogue with just eyes and expression. He reminds me of actors Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba and Jean Reno, all of these men are big, physical guys who chew up scenes. Liev underplays Ray perfectly, you feel his power and control and more importanly, you believe this guy could fix damned near anything. </p> <p>Ray’s rolling in the dough now too it seems, and his big Irish family is staying close to the tit. His South Boston brothers Terry (Eddie Marsan) and Bunchy (Dash Mihok), his two children and his wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) are all Ray’s circle of dependents.</p> <p>The characters are flawed of course, as Terry has Parkinson’s; Bunchy’s a boozer and his dad Mickey is a hard core felon, just released from Walpole State Prison. </p> <p>Guess who’s coming to dinner! </p> <p>Watch for Miami born actor Steven Bauer, who plays Avi, a tough Israeli aide de camp of Ray. They have great ‘bro’ chemistry and work well together (Great interview with him on the role <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/28/3475663/steven-bauers-new-role-playing.html">here).</a> Bauer – like Eric Roberts – are actors I do not see enough of cast in roles deserving of their talents.</p> <p>Voight is electric as Mickey, so utterly conniving, cryptic, menacing, charming, manipulative all while earning our sympathy. He and Gemma from "Sons of Anarchy" are cut from the same cloth it seems. Voight has Mickey up to all sorts of un PC small moves in scene. He checks out a woman who’s breast-feeding her baby on a plane with a wink, to ostensibly supporting abused son Bunchy at a self help group, where he cracks wise with pedo jokes.  </p> <p>He’s Whitey Bulger Boston old school… smell the Brut, see the cheap leather, pinky rings, and a fearless use of language in today’s climate of punitive language police where someone like a Paula Deen is all but crucified in public forum for past usage of a word so many Americans have also uttered.  He doesn’t care! He’ll say it, by God. Mickey is Ray’s biggest headache.</p> <p>“Ray Donovan” is ultimately a story that revolves around who is the alpha male of the Donovan clan, the shot caller, the rudder to steer the messy ship in foreign Western waters. Ray and Mickey’s acrimonious relationship and history emerges as the episodes proceed.  </p> <p>Brilliant small scenes include Voight while reconnecting with his grandson, spitting out his detox green juice drink (after some eye opening gay friendly advice) his Calabasas-ified kid hands him in Cross Creek, Malibu’s little shopping and dining spot at the end of Malibu Canyon. He nearly cuffs the boy, out of love of course and concern his spawn is getting a bit soft.</p> <p>The LA Confidential PR Wehrmacht is Ray’s dance floor, as he plants, fixes and steers media away from potential PR nightmares. The famous A-Lister who swings both ways and won’t come out? The inconvenient drug overdoses of some hired help in someone’s bed? The tawdry, dirty and entitled douchebaggery that really does exist here is his no nonsense day on the job. He delivers. His wife watches and worries a siren might beckon him away.</p> <p>Cast: Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Elliott Gould, Paula Malcomson, Pooch Hall, Eddie Marsan, Katherine Moennig, Frank Whaley, Peter Jacobson, Dash Mihok</p> <p>This series premieres Sunday at 10 on Showtime. Do not miss it.<font size="2"><br></font></p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/-a3SQpkd5zM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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