The film is a celebration of an era both very recent and very lost, when the overflowing ashtray was as much a part of the newsroom landscape as the Royal manual typewriter, and Mr. Hamill and Mr. Breslin helped define the stories that defined New York.
Brawler and Bard
The two were friends, but opposites. Mr. Breslin was grandstanding, pugnacious, in love with the very idea of Jimmy Breslin. Mr. Hamill — big-hearted, self-effacing, in love with the rhythms of the city and the poetry he found there.
Even his moral outrage carried a hint of lyricism. In 1989, when Donald Trump took out full-page ads in city newspapers calling for New York State to adopt the death penalty following the arrest of the Central Park Five, the African-American and Latino teenagers accused — wrongfully, it turned out — the raping of Trisha Meili, the so-called Central Park Jogger, Mr. Hamill fired back:
“Snarling and heartless and fraudulently tough, insisting on the virtues of stupidity, it was the epitome of blind negation,” he wrote in Esquire. “Hate was just another luxury.”
In his columns, Mr. Hamill mastered an almost haiku-like brevity. “Tabloid stories are highlight films,” he said.
But he also knew how to spread his wings. As a magazine writer for Esquire and New York Magazine, he rode the wave of New Journalism alongside Gay Talese, Gloria Steinem and Tom Wolfe (all of whom share recollections in “Deadline Artists”).
Mr. Hamill’s 1969 article, “The Revolt of the White Lower Middle Class,” could have been written in 2016: “The working-class white man is actually in revolt against taxes, joyless work, the double standards and short memories of professional politicians, hypocrisy and what he considers the debasement of the American dream.”