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‘Ray Donovan’ movie sends off the haunted antihero in style

Back from Showtime’s cancellation, Liev Schreiber closes out the best role of his career with some looks into the fixer’s past.

In “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” Liev Schreiber returns to a role he began playing in 2013.
SHOWTIME

The most shocking death in the history of the blood-soaked Showtime series “Ray Donovan” was the hit taken out on the show itself in January 2020 — a move that blindsided the creators, who had ended Season 7 with a number of cliffhangers in the mistaken belief there would be at least one more season.

“We had no indicator the show was ending,” showrunner David Hollander told Vulture. “We were behaving creatively as though we were in mid-sentence.”

Two years later, that sentence ends with an emphatic, bold-type exclamation point with “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” a feature-length finale giving closure to Liev Schreiber’s title character and the outstanding ensemble of supporting characters — even if that closure means you wind up in a box or bleeding out on the floor. (I’m not saying that happens to any major players; I’m not saying it doesn’t.)

“Ray Donovan: The Movie” picks up in the immediate aftermath of events from the Season 7 finale, with Ray’s father Mickey (Jon Voight) on the run with valuable documents belonging to the Donovans’ longtime rivals, the Sullivan clan, while Ray and his brothers Terry (Eddie Marsan), Bunchy (Dash Mihok) and Daryll (Pooch Hall) are dealing with the usual questions of fate and mortality and a haunted past from which they’ll never quite escape. (There’s a reason why the tagline for this movie is “You Can’t Outrun Your Legacy.”)

Ray’s daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) has been left a young widow after her husband Smitty (Graham Rogers) was collateral damage in yet another shootout involving the Donovans — and while Bridget has managed to retain her humanity through an unbelievably tumultuous childhood and adolescence, we’re beginning to wonder if she’ll be able escape the family’s generational history of violence and live anything resembling a normal life. (Ray’s son Conor hasn’t been seen since he shipped overseas with the Marines.) When Ray and his brothers share darkly funny war stories about their family over drinks shortly after Smitty is laid to rest, Bridget lashes out at them: I’m trying to figure out why … why is it so easy for you to forget? You just drink it all away as if someone’s life is just another bull---- story to tell…

But that’s just it. Ray can never drink away his past, as we’re reminded in the Boston-set flashback sequences that continue to flesh out Ray’s childhood, with Chris Gray playing the young Ray and Bill Heck doing spectacularly electric work as Mickey, who was already entrenched as a charming, handsome, duplicitous and slick con man looking for an angle every day from the moment he woke up. (We also see Ray’s future wife Abby, played by A.J. Michalka, as a young bartender.) In one of the most chilling scenes in the history of the series, Ray attends a funeral, after which the priest who abused Ray and his brothers tells him he’s being transferred to another church. (Faithful viewers of the series know it will be decades before Ray sees that monster again, but he WILL see him.)

In present day, Ray literally has blood on his hands as he confides via telephone to his therapist (the great Alan Alda) and is essentially in a confessional. We don’t know until the very end of the story whose blood Ray is wearing, but we’re not surprised when we finally find out.

Ever since we were introduced to the morose, haunted, well-dressed and animalistic Hollywood “fixer” Ray Donovan in 2013, Ray has been using his guile, fists, gun and a baseball bat to clean up one unholy mess after another. He moved forward with the ruthless efficiency of a dead-eyed shark, but instead of a steady diet of food, Ray seemed to subsist only on Johnnie Walker Black, the occasional beer, coffee — and more Johnnie Walker Black. He always looked great in his black luxury sedan and his black sports coat, but more often than not, there was blood on his white button-down shirt.

Schreiber was given arguably the best role of his career and he grabbed it with gusto and made it all his own. It was probably the right time to say goodbye to “Ray Donovan,” as the series had begun spinning its wheels in recent seasons, after the action moved from California to the East Coast, but with this movie, Ray gets the send-off he deserves.