Paul Haggis (creator)
Robert Maresco (creator)
February 26, 2007
Jimmy's plan to help his brother Kevin out of gambling debt with a truckload of stolen designer shirts backfires, forcing the two to kidnap local mob boss, Sal Minnetta's, nephew Louie. When Sal's right-hand-man Nicky Cottero decides to take the matters into his own hands, it's up to Tommy, the brainy one of the Donnelly brothers, to choose between fighting for his family and life as an honest man.
Two investigators question prison inmate Joey “Ice Cream” about missing bodies. Joey recounts an important incident from his childhood past. As a child, his lifelong friend Jimmy was run over by an anonymous driver, shattering his leg and his life. Next, Joey recalls a wake at the Firecracker lounge, a second home to the Irish Donnelly brothers: Jimmy, Kevin, Tommy and Sean the baby. There, Tommy learns that Kevin, a hopeless gambler, is three thousand dollars in debt. In voiceover, Joey tells the investigators about Jenny, a pretty waitress married to a corrupt schoolteacher who robs drug dealers to pay for his student loans. Jenny tells Tommy that Kevin tried to borrow four thousand dollars from her earlier that day.
A local cop, Frankie, questions Tommy about his brother Jimmy’s involvement with a stolen truck. Tommy questions Jimmy about the stolen truck but Jimmy denies any involvement. A bar brawl ensues that’s taken out into the streets. All the Donnelly brothers jump in the truck and Jimmy, clad in an expensive T-shirt, tells Tommy he has thousands more in the back to sell. Tommy orders them out of the truck but changes his tune when a cop car cruises by. When they arrive at the buyers’ place, they discover the truck is empty. Kevin tells Louis “Downtown,” the bookie he owes money to, that he needs more time to pay him back. Louis runs the books for Sal and his right hand man, Mickey. Kevin’s brothers, Sean and Jimmy, kidnap Louis and drive off. In voiceover, Joey recounts some neighborhood background: When he was a child, Jimmy’s father was killed by some disgruntled neighborhood Italians, sparking a longtime feud between the Italians and the Black Irish.
While romancing a pretty girl, Tommy is interrupted by Huey, the vigilant Black Irish neighborhood “top dog.” He tells Tommy that Louis “Downtown” has been snatched and suggests that the criminals are Tommy's brothers. He tells Tommy that Sal, a powerful Italian leader, is Louis’s uncle. Fearing a bloody aftermath, Tommy catches a ride to the bar looking for Kevin. He discovers Kevin in the basement harboring a gagged and bound Louis. Tommy tries to free Louis but Kevin warns him of Jimmy’s impending anger. “He’s not your Italian,” Jimmy tells Tommy, “He’s our Italian!” Kevin arrives and reveals that the kidnapped Italian has escaped. Tommy chases Louis through the city and catches him. Louis begs Tommy to let him free, promising he’ll forfeit the five thousand dollars Kevin owes him.
At his office, Sal promises Mickey thirty thousand dollars to find his missing nephew. Meanwhile, Kevin gambles with the kidnapped Louis in the basement of the bar. He offers to play him out of the ransom money but loses. At a diner, Tommy is confronted by Frankie, the cop, who warns him to get help for his dangerous brother, Jimmy. Tommy sketches the waitress, Jenny, but acts shy around her.
Tommy discovers Jimmy passed out in the bar. He tries to talk to his brother but Jimmy goes to the bathroom to shoot up. When Tommy breaks in, the brothers fight and Kevin breaks them up. Tommy tells Jimmy he’d be better off dead the way he is and the two brothers part in anger. An anonymous car pulls up and drops off a plastic bag. Joey, the narrator, picks up the bag and passes it along to Jimmy. Walking home with his girlfriend, Sean is beaten by Sal’s guys. Jimmy, high on drugs, watches his brother being beaten and leaves the scene without helping. He returns to the bar to get his gun and shoots Louis dead. Following Sean’s beating, Huey tells Tommy that he’ll talk to Sal. At the hospital, Jimmy confides to Tommy that he killed Louis and gives Tommy the gun.
Huey goes to Sal and negotiates a retribution deal that involves the killing of Jimmy only. Huey takes the news to Tommy and tells him that Sal wants the money back and that Jimmy must apologize in person and expect a beating. Tommy realizes the true implication: that Jimmy is as good as dead. Meanwhile, Jenny arrives at the hospital and confesses to Tommy that she’s in love with him. At the neighborhood deli, Jimmy spots the cashier wearing one of the stolen shirts but blows it off. On the street, Frankie arrests him for stealing the shirts. Tommy watches the scene from the hospital window and tells Kevin that Frankie is going to get his wayward brother into rehab. As the two brothers leave to meet Sal, Jenny, fearing for their lives, tries to stop them.
As Tommy and Kevin walk to Sal’s, we flash back to the day that changed Jimmy’s life. As young Jimmy lies wounded on the street, the driver of the car is revealed as Tommy. We cut back to Sal’s bar and in a flurry of bullets Tommy saves his brother by killing Sal, his cronies and Huey. Tommy has just taken over the neighborhood.
- Jonathan Tucker as Thomas "Tommy" Donnelly
- Tom Guiry as James "Jimmy" Donnelly
- Billy Lush as Kevin Donnelly
- Michael Stahl-David as Sean "Seanny" Donnelly
- Olivia Wilde as Jenny Reilly
- Keith Nobbs as Joey Ice Cream
- Kirk Acevedo as Nicky Cottero
- The exterior shots for the Firecracker Lounge were filmed at the Shannon Pot, a bar at the corner of Jackson Ave. and Davis St. in Long Island City, Queens. The exterior shots for the Minetta Tavern were filmed at the real-life Minetta Tavern at 113 MacDougal St. in New York's Greenwich Village.
- The Black Donnellys is loosely based on Co-Creator Bobby Moresco's childhood in Hell's Kitchen, New York.
- Keith Nobbs and Thomas Guiry appeared together in an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." The episode, "The Good", aired May 14, 2006.
- The original drafts of The Black Donnellys were titled "The Truth According to Joey Ice Cream"
- The manner in which Tommy kills the henchman sent to search him for weapons is reminiscent of the way the feud between the historical Donnellys and the Farrells began. The Donnelly patriarch, James Donnelly, killed Patrick Farrell with a railroad spike to the left temple, which led to the massacre of five of the Donnellys.
Detective at prison: So, where are the bodies?
Joey Ice Cream: Oh, man. These guys are my friends.
Detective at prison: Here's the deal, Joey. You tell us where the bodies are, how they got there, and you stay in solitary, nice and safe. You lie, you go to general population where more people than I can count want to see you dead.
Detective Sunny: [throws a book down on the table harshly] Where are the bodies?
Tommy Donnelly: [Huey has just told Tommy that Jimmy and Kevin kidnapped Louie Downtown] Hey, Kevin!
Kevin Donnelly: Tommy, me and Jimmy went downtown with goodness in our hearts to work out a deal. But Louie starts threatening me, I mean, what was I supposed to do? Tommy Donnelly: Kevin, everybody knows who did this. You kidnap somebody, they're not supposed to know who you are.
Kevin Donnelly: Tommy you think we're stupid? We wore masks.
Tommy Donnelly: You went down there with goodness in your hearts, but you wore masks?
Joey Ice Cream: [narrating] The Irish have always been victims of negative stereotyping. I mean people think we're all drunks and brawlers. And sometimes that gets you so mad all you wanna do is get drunk and punch somebody.
Detective Sunny: Hey, you got any naked models at that art school? Cause I wanna visit.
[shot of Joey Ice Cream cozying up to Jenny]
[talking to the detective in a voiceover narration] Joey Ice Cream: Now, a couple years before, Jenny, she married a schoolteacher. Now, Teach forgets to mention that he robs drug dealers to pay for his student loans. He goes into hiding, somebody stuffs him in an oil drum. Nobody had the heart to tell Jenny. I mean, even me, and we were like an item. Jenny Reilly: Bug off, Joey.
Joey Ice Cream: [to Tommy, who has walked up] Yeah, you got it. She's a great girl, isn't she?
Tommy Donnelly: [Tommy walks outside to find Sean kissing the girl Tommy had just asked out] Hey! Hey Sean! What the hell are you doing?
Sean Donnelly: Are you guys like seeing each other? 'Cause I didn't know.
Jimmy Donnelly: [after getting into the truck he stole] Hey Tommy, you like this shirt?
Tommy Donnelly: You ask me if I like that shirt?
Jimmy Donnelly: Yeah, 'cause I got a couple thousand more in the back.
Jimmy Donnelly: Hey, no banging on the machines!
Joey Ice Cream: What, it took my money!
Jimmy Donnelly: It's supposed to take your money!
[last lines] Joey Ice Cream: And that's where he left the bodies; right where they lay. Now, what the Italians did with them, I mean I can't say.
Detective Sunny: Those aren't the bodies we were asking about.
Joey Ice Cream: Oh. [gets knocked out]
Tommy Donnelly: [after leaving the bar and heading into the alleyway] What's this, the truck you didn't steal, Jimmy?
Jimmy Donnelly: Tommy, lighten up!
Tommy Donnelly: Get out of the truck. The cop's here.
Kevin Donnelly: Come on, you know Jimmy can't drive!
Tommy Donnelly: Neither can you! Get out of the truck!
Tommy Donnelly: [noticing a police car has parked in front of the alleyway where the stolen truck is] Son of a bitch! Get back in the truck!
Jimmy Donnelly: Now I should get in the truck.
Tommy Donnelly: Get back in the truck.
Joey Ice Cream: I was the only one who saw him, the only one who knew that it was Tommy driving the car. And to this day, it's the one thing I never told anybody. I'm ashamed to be telling you now. Tommy never stole a car again, never did nothing, turned his whole life around. I mean, he could have made it out, only he was never going to let his brother be hurt again. And this was the day that changed Jimmy's life forever. 'Cause Jimmy went to rehab, and Tommy... Tommy became everything he never wanted. And whether he realized it or not, with Huey dead, Tommy had just taken over the neighborhood. And he was going to have to defend it.
Joey Ice Cream: See, all through history, people have accused the Black Irish of every crime that came along. They were supposed to have Gypsy blood, or Spanish or something, but my grandmother told me that before the Celts even showed up in Ireland, there was a race of dark-haired people who the Celts then proceeded to wipe out. But they could never get them all. A few of them ended up at the Firecracker Lounge.
[narrating] Joey Ice Cream: Now, Kevin had always thought of himself as a gambler. He always believed he was lucky. The fact that he'd never won a bet in his life somehow never dissuaded him of this notion.
Tommy Donnelly: Really, Kevin? $2,000? How could you lose $2,000 on jai alai? You don't even know what jai alai is, do you you? Why don't you show me? Show me how you play, Kevin. [narrating]
Joey Ice Cream: Tommy had a knack for two things: drawing and getting his brothers out of trouble. What he didn't seem to understand is that he'd never go anywhere with the first if he couldn't let go of the second.