Ray Donovan: The Movie TV Review

Plot: The Movie picks up where season seven left off, with Mickey in the wind and Ray determined to find and stop him before he can cause any more carnage. The film also weaves together the present-day fallout from the Donovan/Sullivan feud with Ray and Mickey’s origin story from 30 years ago.

Review: Ray Donovan was unceremoniously canceled by Showtime back in February 2020. With the eighth season planned to be the last, series creator David Hollander was left with many plot elements hanging and fans without a satisfying conclusion. A year later, star Liev Schrieber announced a feature-length movie that would wrap the storylines of the Donovan clan with Hollander behind the camera. Schrieber and Hollander collaborated on the script for the movie which is finally arriving to wrap the tale of Ray’s long-simmering showdown with his father, Mickey (Jon Voight). The result, even for hardcore fans of Ray Donovan, is somewhat underwhelming and almost makes the sting of the series’ cancellation feel that much worse.

Through a three-minute, dialogue-free opening recap, we see a quick summary of the seven seasons worth of tension between the Donovan father and son. Then, the cliffhanger ending of season seven is shown, featuring the death of Declan Sullivan (Kevin Corrigan), James Sullivan (Peter Gerety), and Smitty (Graham Rogers). Ray then begins recounting his sins over a phone call with Dr. Arthur Amiot (Alan Alda) which frames the narrative of the movie. What follows over the next hour and a half is a blend of Ray’s search for Mickey with flashbacks to his youth, giving more insight into how Mickey became the catastrophic presence in his family.

Part of the problem with Ray Donovan as a series is that it shifted away from what it was about. The show started as the story of a Hollywood fixer who could get celebrities out of the stickiest situations. As good as Liev Schrieber and Jon Voight have been, and they have the Emmy nominations to support that, the series always felt like a pulpier take on high-quality premium cable series. By shifting the focus away from the fixer storyline and making this really about Ray and his father, Ray Donovan began to feel like a New England version of The Sopranos. Mimicking better films and series, this show has always been familiar and safe and never quite became what it could have been. Ray Donovan: The Movie is no different.

Similar to The Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, Ray Donovan: The Movie gives us extended flashes back to the death of Ray’s sister which formed the basis for the rift between Ray and his father. In these scenes, young Ray (Chris Gray) and Mickey (Bill Heck) deal with the fall out of Bridget’s death and we get to meet many characters from Ray’s adult life. It is an intriguing story, to be sure, but forcing it into a single episode/movie feels rushed. So much of Ray Donovan: The Movie feels rushed and lacks any subtlety. This is a blunt, straightforward story that doesn’t really pack many surprises on its way to a fairly predictable ending.

It takes almost a full hour for the first intense moment of Ray Donovan: The Movie to take place and it is quickly followed by a flashback that derails the momentum of the sequence. The remainder of the film follows the same pattern, shifting from flashback to the main story to the wraparound conversation between Ray and Dr. Amiot. For almost two hours, this movie bounces between the three as it slowly builds to the inevitable conclusion. I wish I had more positive words to say about this movie but it pales compared to far more successful series endings like Deadwood: The Movie. That film managed to give the entire ensemble cast a chance to say goodbye whereas Ray Donovan: The Movie relegates many main characters to minor supporting roles.

Wrapping up eighty-two episodes worth of character development and plot in one hundred minutes is no easy task. Hollander and Schrieber know the ins and outs of the Donovan clan better than anyone and yet they fail to capture the immediacy of this story by spending more time lamenting, grieving, and reflecting. Nothing particularly cinematic occurs to make this feel like a feature film. This “movie” really feels like an extended episode. Had Ray Donovan had a full season to wrap everything up, this finale would have felt much different and earned the ending that this movie fails to deliver. But, after two years of waiting for an explosive conclusion, Ray Donovan: The Movie ends up sending the franchise out with a whimper.

Ray Donovan: The Movie premieres on January 14th on Showtime.


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