Kill The Irishman (2011) Review
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, 2011’s "Kill the Irishman" is a biographical crime film that’s based on the true story of Danny Greene, an Irish-American mobster who rose to power in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1970s.
The film features an impressive cast, including Ray Stevenson (Punisher War Zone, G.I. Joe Retaliation, and Rome) as Danny Greene, Vincent D'Onofrio as John Nardi, Val Kilmer as Joe Manditski, and Christopher Walken as Shondor Birns. The performances are all solid, not to mention Stevenson, who brings depth and complexity to his portrayal of the notorious mobster. The movie’s plot follows Danny Greene's rise to power in the Cleveland underworld, as he starts off as a disgruntled longshoremen on the Cleveland docks who eventually becomes involved in a power struggle between various criminal factions. “Irishman” is violent and intense, with plenty of shootouts, car chases, and explosions. However, the movie is also surprisingly nuanced and intelligent, as it explores the complex relationships between the different characters and the political and social climate of Cleveland at the time. One of the strengths of "Kill the Irishman" is its attention to detail. The movie does an excellent job of recreating the look and feel of 1970s Cleveland, and the costumes, sets, and props are top-notch for a modest budgeted project.
The film also incorporates actual news footage and photographs from the time, which adds to the authenticity of the story. Like a virtual time capsule, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the criminal underworld of 1970s Cleveland with Danny Greene, as the main subject of course. Stevenson channels Greene as this charismatic and complex figure who defied the odds and made his mark on history, there is a bit of duality with this character, as he is a family man who loves his wife and children, a romantic, yet he’s ruthless, full of bravado, and devoid of compassion towards his enemies and others who cross him. It’s easily comparable to 1990’s Goodfellas yet has an identity of its own. There’s a nice cameo appearance from the late great Paul” Uncle Pauly” Sorvino who sadly, was omitted from the In Memoriam segment during the recent Oscars telecast, but that’s a tale for another day. That said, the movie has minor pacing issues and in some instances a lack of character development regarding supporting characters. There were a few critiques of how it leans heavily on stereotypes and caricatures, particularly in its depiction of the Italian mafia as ruthless and cruel but then again, isn’t that with most Mobster films and television series be it The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Godfather of Harlem? And speaking of “stereotypes”, there’s an amusing scene where Greene gives Scottish Union buster, Mr. McLeish a “history lesson” that he wasn’t prepared for.
As for the soundtrack, it served its purpose albeit for the most part, forgettable with the noted exception of "You're a Prisoner” from the Black Godfathers of Punk, Death. Played in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it moment” as Greene shuts down some “quality of life” criminal activity. The obvious mob-related tropes of pathos, betrayal, and unexpected whackings are included in the storyline as they should be. How else would you make an underworld movie without those elements?
Overall, "Kill the Irishman" is a solid crime drama that offers a glimpse into a fascinating period of American history and while it may not be the most nuanced or historically accurate film, it still delivers and is highly recommended.
So, pour yourself some Guinness stout, and raise a glass to one of Ray Stevenson’s underrated if not best films! Happy Saint Paddywagon’s Day! I rate it three and a half 🍀🍀🍀 out of five!
In the irony of ironies, this film marks the second Punisher actor Hensleigh has directed, the first was Thomas Jane of 2004’s The Punisher, while Ray Stevenson of Punisher War Zone, is the second. Also Vincent D'Onofrio would eventually star as The Kingpin, in the Daredevil series.