From the GATW Archives: Theatrical Review: KILL THE IRISHMAN

Rating: 3/5

WritersJonathan Hensleigh (screenplay), Jeremy Walters(screenplay), Rick Porrello(book, To Kill the Irishman)
DirectorJonathan Hensleigh
CastRay StevensonChristopher WalkenVincent D’OnofrioVal KilmerLinda Cardellini

It’s going to take a lot more than firecrackers to kill Danny Greene. You see, the firecrackers he’s referring to are the car bomb rigs that just exploded in his car - as he was driving it. Luckily for this tall drink of water, the radio started shorting out moments before, alerting Mr. Greene to stop, drop, and roll out of his car before physics placed his body all over the street. Greene isn’t a wanted man all over, in fact he has respect from most people in his area.

In the beginning, Greene confidently worked his way up to the top of the worker’s union at a dock in Cleveland. Shortly after, through shady dealings and scare tactics, Greene became one of the top mob bosses the city had to offer. But as you probably already know, nothing stays good in a gangster’s paradise and a bad deal gone horribly wrong sets this true story of violence and betrayal in full-throttle.

Ray Stevenson stars as Danny Greene, the titular Irishman whose rise to fame gave the true meaning of “more money, more problems.” The film was directed by Jonathon Hensleigh, who co-wrote the screenplay based off the book To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia. Funny story: the two have both worked on a PUNISHER film (Hensleigh co-wrote and directed THE PUNISHER starring Thomas Jane; Stevenson starred in THE PUNISHER: WAR ZONE), so neither are strangers to violent cinema. Stevenson looks identical to the real Danny Greene (all the way up to his missing patches of hair), and if that man was as confident and ruthless as Stevenson plays him, well then, Stevenson has done a great job here. The real Greene was not only street smart, he was also book smart (he was known compulsively read novels) and Stevenson crafted his character to look like more than just a meathead ready to kick your ass.

KILL THE IRISHMAN is populated by a lot of mobsters, but the most notable are Christopher Walken and Vincent D’Onofrio; Val Kilmer shows up as the plump detective Mandiski hot on Greene’s dirty trail. Walken’s full potential is pretty much wasted, as he’s not in the film for very long, but it’s D’Onofrio who almost steals the show by channeling his psychotic characters from previous films as Greenes’ literal partner-in-crime, John Nardi.

The problem with KILL THE IRISHMAN is the attempts to actually kill the Irishman. Less than two minutes in to IRISHMAN, someone tries to kill our titular character (definitely the coolest-looking attempt in the film, too), but after that, the majority of the film is Greene’s rise to the top. It feels like only a small portion of the film is the gangster’s version of cat-and-mouse shoot-em-up. In these scenes, however, a lot of cars blow up,  a lot of people die, and a lot of blood is shed.

What I loved and appreciate about IRISHMAN is how Hensleigh knots the real story with the fictional feature. After a mobster is guaranteed to not show up in any sequel this film could have, the film cuts to the actual news footage of that assassination; after there is an unsuccessful attempt on Greene’s life, we’re shown the actual interview with Greene shortly after what happened. If nothing else, KILL THE IRISHMAN should be appreciated as an important look at the way Greene affected the mob and crimes back in the late 70s.

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