Hey, have you heard the one about the sensitive young artist (Thurston) stuck in a dead-end 'hood? The kind of place where alpha-male knuckleheadedness reigns supreme, and where what passes for family affection is your shit-faced pops (Avatar's bullnecked badass Lang) not cracking you in the jaw? But dammit, the kid's got talent, and he'll get the hell outta there even if he's got to forsake all he holds dear? Such a snarky synopsis may oversimplify writer-director John Gray's film clef about growing up rough in '70s Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but not by much; it's the sort of earnest but by-the-numbers tale of hard-learned life lessons that suggests once you've seen one coming-of-age movie, you really have seen them all.
The divinity of these movies usually lies in the details, and if nothing else, White Irish Drinkers does conjure up a Me Decade of shaggy sideburns, Rolling Stones baseball tee's and wide-lapelled leather jackets. It also benefits from casting the relatively unknown Thurston as its lead, the kind of performer who can flip a clichd barroom seduction sequence of a redhead cutie (Murphy) and turn it into the film's strongest scene. But atmosphere and acting can't save a script filled with easy-target irony ("Who ever heard of gettin' rich from workin' with computers?") and a plot that telegraphs every left turn miles in advance. You know whose dreams won't pan out, which scams will go south and who's doomed, long before the movie tells you; that the way there doesn't even offer much fun or insight is enough to drive you to drink.