David Milch and HBO’s relationship reminds me a bit of Richard Burton’s and Liz Taylor’s on/off again saga: You’re constantly waiting for the inevitable moment when the marriage will sour, but you will watch every moment, because the chemistry between the two is so incredible. This was true for three seasons of Deadwood and one with John from Cincinnati. Hopefully the third time’s the charm, or Luck in the case of this horserace.
Welcome to Santa Anita, Park where writer Milch and pilot director Michael Mann (Heat) have created for us several microcosms of the horseracing world all the way from the men who pull the strings, to the trainers, the horses, to the poor betting suckers whose ‘job’ it is to read all three. Dustin Hoffman is better than ever as ‘Ace’ Bernstein, a professional gambler on the level of DeNiro’s character in Casino, who is just released from prison after a three-year stint and ready to get back in the game by piggybacking on new horse owner Gus, played by Dennis Farina (Snatch).
Kevin Dunn (Transformers) and Jason Gedrick (Iron Eagle) are both excellent as the aforementioned degenerate gamblers. They and their two other partners attempt to throw a wrench into everything by making a long-shot bet to win a huge payoff. All of this is well and good, but what I am looking forward to is the monologue. Milch’s characters are often given to discourse when there is no one else in the room. Hoffman will be great for this; he will be like Al Swearengen of Deadwood (the venue is not much different), up in his suite ranting on about ‘this is how I became who I am’ and what not.
But Nick Nolte as the grizzled old trainer with a yet unknown tragic history will be the measuring stick. I picture him bellowing out platitudes while haphazardly swirling around his seventh glass of Kentucky bourbon late at night by candlelight in a shitty guesthouse. We may not get the gist of the monologue at first, Milch writes dialogue that could make Faulkner scratch his head, but it will be a wondrous sight to behold.
The first two times Milch and HBO parted ways there were conflicting reports as to what happened. Money and rating are always easy scapegoats, and that is usually the exact case, but there was too much other noise to really buy into that. Now it should be mentioned that the New York Observer is reporting that two horses have died while filming the show. The report mentions that production was suspended so that they could adopt additional protocols with the help of the American Humane Society. I hope that they exercise due diligence here, or else the third inevitable divorce between Milch and HBO could be the ugliest yet.
I’m still watching regardless.