When I was a freshman in college, I found a movie that changed my life.
No, not 'The Royal Tenenbaums' or 'Casablanca.' It was the decidedly less-profound 'Southie: Toughest Neighborhood in America.'
Procured on a whim from a bargain bin at Newbury Comics in Boston, 'Southie' quickly became a cult classic in my dorm. It was so bad, it became good. Almost.
"A movie set in Boston starring a guy with the last name Wahlberg?" you might ask. "Surely, you're referring to Mark Wahlberg and the Oscar-nominated boxing movie 'The Fighter,' or maybe 'The Departed.'"
But, oh, how wrong you'd be.
That's right. The 1998 drama 'Southie' takes place in Boston and it stars a Wahlberg. Donnie Wahlberg, that is, Mark's less famous, boy-bander brother. He plays Danny Quinn, a former South Boston native who left the area to avoid falling victim to the mob.
He returns to Southie, a working-class section of Boston, to find his family life shattered and quickly gets involved in shady business with the local Irish mafia.
Can Danny redeem himself? It's harder than you'd think in the TOUGHEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICA.
If that plot doesn't sound awesome enough, Wahlberg's co-stars are Amanda Peet, Rose McGowan and a pre-'Arrested Development' Will Arnett.
The whole cast is guilty of supreme over-acting, but it's not entirely their fault when the dialogue and characters are so, so corny.
Peet plays Marianne, Wahlberg's love interest; McGowan is Kathy, his alcoholic sister, who has some of the most laughable lines in the movie; and Arnett plays some version of a not-fully-formed GOB Bluth character named Whitey -- seriously. (At one point, he yoinks a coffee that Danny bought for Marianne with a simple, "I'll take that.") The cast is glorious to watch.
Kathy, for instance, is introduced drinking and bowling when she should be getting ready for a wedding. On the jukebox is The Runaways' teenage rebellion anthem 'Cherry Bomb,' just in case we weren't sure that her character was a bad seed. At one point, she menacingly tells ex-boyfriend Whitey, "You know I know where you live."
For his part, Wahlberg doesn't change his expression from scrunched-up concern (left) for the entire film -- that is, when he isn't exchanging "meaningful" looks.
And the family matriarch, played by a properly red-headed Anne Meara, gives it her all with the movie's best overacting, punctuating each line by screeching it.
Even the supporting characters are cartoons. At one point, for no reason, a Muppet-looking doctor yells at Danny about his mother, saying, "She has heart disease. Do you get that?"
Top 5 Quotes Actually Spoken in 'Southie'
"What are you talking about? It's barely illegal." -- Danny Quinn's brother, after he and Whitey try to get him to invest in their business, a gambling club in Southie
"I ain't telling you sh*t and I ain't no f*cking barfly neither." -- Kathy's friend, to Danny, in a bar
"F*ck you. Your mother's a gutterball!" -- Kathy's friend, to a snickering onlooker, while she and Kathy are candlepin bowling
"Take your panties and get outta here!" -- Danny, to a hooker
"When I was one, [my father] taught me how to walk. When I was two, he taught me how to fight." -- Danny
It's hard to walk around Hollywood without tripping over the script for a gritty drama set in Beantown. Aside from 'The Departed' and 'The Fighter,' films like 'Mystic River,' 'The Town' and 'Gone Baby Gone' have garnered critical and commercial acclaim, putting the spotlight on Boston.
Obviously, my love of 'Southie' is steeped in irony. But anyone who's a fan of the Wahlbergs or of Boston movies should get a kick out of this. It has all the elements of the Oscar-favorite Boston films -- in all of the wrong places -- which unintentionally makes 'Southie' the "best" Boston movie you've never heard of.
Watch 'Southie' on Netflix Instant or here for FREE on Hulu.
FUN FACT: 'Southie' and 'The Fighter' actually share an actress: Dorchester-based comedian Sue Costello plays Mo, Rose McGowan's drunk friend in 'Southie,' and Becky, one of Mark Wahlberg's crazy sisters in 'The Fighter.'