Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Pittsburgh Plays Brooklyn in ‘A New York Heartbeat’

The throwback gangster flick, set in 1950s New York City, debuts exclusively at Regent Square Theater.



 

In 2010, an independent film crew somewhat frantically gathered around Pittsburgh to shoot A New York Heartbeat, a throwback gangster flick set in late-’50s Brooklyn. Through the vagaries of film sales and distribution, the finished product is only now seeing the light of day — and the film’s producers were kind enough to tap Pittsburgh as the site for Heartbeat’s world premiere via an exclusive two-week engagement beginning tomorrow at Regent Square Theater.

A gang of wannabe wise guys led by cocky Spider (Escher Holloway) thinks they have a lead on a small-time heist. Upon arrival, they discover a much bigger prize than expected: an impressive mountain of cash. As they shove the bills into a suitcase, they realize they’re in a safe house run by notorious thug Casket Mike (Oscar-nominated character actor Eric Roberts); most of the crew escapes, but Spider and the cash tumble to the street below.

After he finds himself on the losing end of an unrelated scuffle, Spider wakes up in a penthouse apartment under the care of Tamara (Rachel Brosnahan, best known for the Netflix series “House of Cards”). They’re not alone in the apartment, though, and the old man in the next room has a pretty big secret — and an unlikely connection to that pile of money.

Despite the violent world New York Heartbeat inhabits, it’s a bit of a fairy tale. Spider’s crew of hoodlums has more in common with the kids in Stand by Me than big-screen mafiosos; secluded Tamara is closer to Rapunzel than Meadow Soprano. There’s a sweetness and a nostalgia to this story, gritty though it may be. That contrast gives Heartbeat a great deal of its charm.

The rest of the charm comes from the setting — odd, since it’s a New York story filmed in Pittsburgh. During filming, director Tjardus Greidanus told me that Pittsburgh looks more like 1950s Brooklyn than modern Brooklyn does because Pittsburgh’s architecture and character lend an authenticity that newly gentrified Brooklyn doesn’t. I hope audiences around the country buy the substitution. Pittsburghers will undoubtedly recognize locations instantly, including a few Strip District landmarks. Whatever the location, the streets and aging buildings are a character unto themselves.

Alongside Roberts, an underrated legend, and fellow Hollywood vet Jack Donner (instantly recognizable to old-school Star Trek fans) the film’s mostly young cast does fine work. Brosnahan’s stock has risen considerably since filming Heartbeat. Along with “House of Cards,” she had a supporting role in this year’s Beautiful Creatures and tackled a tough role in “Grey’s Anatomy.” Here, she carries the film, giving a world of outsized characters a relatable center of gravity.

There’s a pleasantly breezy flow to Heartbeat’s story that gives it an adventurous feel. The speed with which the gang is swept up into trouble is a remedy to 100 bloated Hollywood setups. The caveat, though: Occasionally, key events are under way before you’re led to expect them. It sort of sneaks up on you. Heartbeat can feel a bit thin as a result, but that may be more due to its somewhat traditional story structure, which stands in sharp contrast to more modern, plot-packed dramas.

While it may not resonate with some audiences, Heartbeat is an enjoyable film full of small delights and fine performances. Locally, it’s also a great reminder that not all the films made in Pittsburgh are Hollywood products. Independent film is alive and well around here, even as the future of Pennsylvania as a filming site is kept in limbo by Harrisburg.

That’s a larger issue than I have space for here, but if you’d like to support local moviemaking this month, buying a ticket for A New York Heartbeat is a great way to do it.


(1035 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square; July 12-25; click here for showtimes and ticket info)

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Nominate the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

What is Pittsburgh's best breakfast joint? Dive bar? Yoga studio? Local singer? Meteorologist? It's time to nominate your local favorites in multiple categories.

Amazon Includes Pittsburgh in its Top-20 List for HQ2

The list of 20 was narrowed from 238 proposals Amazon received in October. So which other cities made the cut?

Restaurant Review: or, The Whale

The Downtown restaurant is a captivating, if costly, catch.

Celebrating 5 Pittsburghers Who Built Careers Behind the Bar

Pittsburgh is a city that celebrates its neighborhood bars. In some of those spots, second- and third-generation regulars are pulling up their stools to be served by someone who started pouring drinks decades ago.

Second Chances: Crossroads in the Kitchen

People working to overcome substance abuse problems and ex-offenders discover a welcoming environment in restaurant kitchens.

How to Pamper Yourself in Pittsburgh

Looking to beat the winter doldrums? We round up the best places and experiences for a little personal indulgence.

Miss Pusadee's Garden? We Have Some Good News.

The Tongdee family now operates Burgh Thai in Verona.

The Growing Popularity of Shooting a Clay Pigeon

Skeet shooting is taking off as a favored western Pennsylvania hobby.

Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

New series ‘$1’ to be filmed in Pittsburgh

The mystery thriller is latest to cash in on the city’s filming opportunities.

Andrew McCutchen: Thanks for the Memories

It's hard to overemphasize McCutchen's impact on the Pirates and its fan base.

How to Make a Mt. Washington Wedding Proposal Even Better

A lot of grooms-to-be propose on Mt. Washington. Not many decorate beforehand.

Bitter End’s Chicken Dinner Fundraiser

Chefs Becca Hegarty and Rick Easton to cook comfort food to help Hegarty’s mother.

Former Art Institute Housing to Be Converted into Condos

Downtown is booming as plans develop for yet another new apartment building.

Big Ben Not Ready to Retire –– But He's Making Plans

Ben Roethlisberger will do as many former athletes have and start the next phase of his career with a dining venture.