Kill The Irishman

Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Notable Cast: Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Linda Cardellini, Vinnie Jones

Rating: R

Review:  Who knew Cleveland was once the city of some of the most turbulent gang violence in recent memory.   Kill The Irishman depicts the true events that changed the mafia scene all together, and gets you up close and personal with the Irishman himself, Danny Greene.  For me, the aura of being a true story really stuck out in my mind the entirety of the film and helped the intensity of the film.  Hensleigh peppered in actual news footage that mirrored the events on-screen to drive the reality home, which was a powerful move.  The most intriguing part of the film is that this is how peoples lives actually played out.  Danny Greene had accepted his place in life, and was living no more than day-to-day.  Kill The Irishman is about a man who dared to defy the mob, a man who acted as a modern-day celtic warrior, and a man with more gusto than thought imaginable.  Kill The Irishman?  Go ahead and try.

Kill The Irishman takes places during the 70’s, when the Italian mafia was still prevalent   in the city of Cleveland.  At that same time, an Irishman named Danny Green (Stevenson) was also getting ready to make his mark on Cleveland.  Danny was a man who always stuck to his guns, wasn’t intimidated by anyone, and took care of the people who took care of him.  You wanted Danny on your side.  After winning control of his longshoremen’s union, he became noticed by the Italian mafia who wanted to bring him in.  Danny befriends the connected John Nardi (D’Onofrio), and starts doing favors for the local Cleveland mafia family.  But after the two get sick and tired of being left by the wayside, they start making deals for themselves, which upsets the balance of power in the city of Cleveland.  Danny then offends a powerful loan shark named Shandor Birns (Walken) who puts a hit out on Danny’s head.  Danny doesn’t run though.  He makes a stand and fights back against the mafia presence, proving to be the hardest man to kill in the city Cleveland.

Just another day at the office…

Ok, as I’ve stated, the real bite came from the fact that Kill The Irishman was a real story. It was a well acted period piece that was meant to tell the whole story.  But, some will be turned off because it plays as more of a documentary than a dramatic cinema experience. Not as much time is spent building the story and advancing the characters as the majority of the time spent telling the true story of Danny Greene.  Kill the Irishman is extremely informative, uses tons of historical footage to back its points, and expertly sets the turbulent scene of the Cleveland gang war.  That said, characters like Kilmer’s cop character Joe Manditski serve little purpose in the film and don’t add to the overall experience.  Kilmer serves as a narrator to the film, but that’s about it.  There’s a specific scene towards the end where Kilmer and Stevenson have a climactic sit down, but to that point all we know is that they’re pretty much rivals.  But suddenly, to try and make a last-minute point, the film includes a scene that makes the two seem like great friends and tries to build Danny Green in a martyrs light.  I get they point that tries to be made, but the logical character portrayals to get to that point don’t exist in leu of documentary footage to more harden the real aspect of the film.  I, myself, did not mind this aspect of the film.  I thought the story was wonderfully told and offered a portal to the past that those of us didn’t live through.  For those looking for that Hollywood edge though, you’ll strive for character development and plot production that isn’t there.  Characters just seem to be and the film expects you to already understand the course of time, where if more careful explanation was given a much stronger impact might have been made.  But with an already long run time, you had to think which was more important: appeasing your audience or sticking to your pre-determined guns?

With that said, I though the cast was fantastic.  Stevenson picked up the role of Danny Grenne and ran with it.  Usually caught in supporting roles (Thor/The Other Guys), Stevenson gets his turn to shine in a character I can’t imagine many other people playing. Look at the rest of the cast too; perfectly picked.  We need an ex-boxer badass?  Easy, Vinnie Jones.  We need some Italian mobsters?  Let’s snatch up some ex-Soprano players and any other stereotypical Italian actor.  D’Onofrio nailed the whole bad guy who’s kind of good guy role as John Nardi, the mobster trying to take over the Italian operations. How about the powerful and charismatic loan shark?  No big deal, Christopher freakin’ Walken.  Even the lesser parts like Greene’s posse were nicely portrayed, showcasing the talent assembled in the cast.  They were so killer in fact, the cast made it hard to ignore all the positives Kill The Irishman had going for it.

Kill The Irishman is an over informative film that wants more to teach than to adhere to the normal cinematic rules.  There’s nothing wrong with it per say, but it’s more than some can handle.  Kill The Irishman is like an over glorified National Geographic   documentary,  but instead of crappy bit parts the film actually employs a respectable cast. Do I need to explain why that works?  Think of every re-creation you’ve ever seen of historic events.  Now implant a dream cast.  Yeah, I was sold from the start, and the portrayal of real life events mixed with Ray Stevenson’s take on Danny Grenne sold me.  I could get past the fact that events “just happened” because of their real life implications. Sometimes, the best stories have already been written.  Why alter them?

Final Rating: 7.5 failed hit attempts out of 10

“And…OH..Hey!…W’eve gotta…Kill…The Irish…Man!”  (If you don’t read that in the Walken dialect, you’re just damn silly)


About Matt Donato

Co-Founder of the Certified Forgotten Universe. Editor, Podcaster, Writer, and pretty rad dude. Don't feed him after midnight, but beers are encouraged. Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd: @DoNatoBomb.
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