Kill The Irishman
In the Summer of 1976, more bombs went off in Cleveland, Ohio, than Belfast as a turf war between local Irish gangster Danny Greene and the Mafia spiralled out of control. Based on the book by Cleveland Police Chief Rick Porello, Kill The Irishman is the astonishing true story of how Greene became (for a while anyway) the man the Mob couldn’t kill.
Borrowing as much from Angels With Dirty Faces as it does Goodfellas, Val Kilmer’s sympathetic cop Joe Manditski narrates the heroic rise and just as inevitable fall of boyhood school chum, Irish-American tough guy Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson). A dockworker, sick of the corruption endemic in his local union, Danny fights his way to the top, taking over the running of the docks and promptly starts lining his own pockets in the process. After a brief spot of bother with the authorities, Danny agrees to become an informer for the Feds and begins a career as a leg-breaker for creepy Jewish loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and a Mob enforcer and friend to minor Mafiosi John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio) before striking out on his own. But when a deal goes bad Greene finds himself in a bloody war with the Cleveland Mafia and New York’s Five Families. With a massive bounty on his head, suddenly everyone is out to Kill The Irishman…
With it’s flawless ‘70s period setting, a diddle-di-dee Oirish soundtrack and fat men in sports jackets having sit-downs, drinking espresso and talking about respect, Kill The Irishman could be virtually any gangster movie of the last twenty years. What sets it apart are it’s powerhouse performances. While Val Kilmer doesn’t really have much to do other than sit around on the sidelines, looking pensive and a bit porky as he tracks his former friend’s doomed trajectory, Christopher Walken is as reliable as ever as the oily loan shark whose duplicitousness kicks off the war, Vinnie Jones just plays Vinnie Jones again (but he does play Vinnie Jones very well) as one of Greene’s loyal henchmen and Vincent D’Onofrio is surprisingly sympathetic as the low-level mobster passed over for promotion who turns his back on his roots and tradition and chooses to ally himself with his friend over La Cosa Nostra.
Kill The Irishman is Ray Stevenson’s film though. After spending much of his career as Jason Statham’s substitute in a series of forgettable action movies (like director Hensleigh’s own Punisher movie), Stevenson has in Greene his best part since the bull-headed Roman soldier Pullo in HBO’s Rome. A sentimental lion of a man who was also capable of ferocious violence, the real Greene styled himself as an Irish-American Robin Hood, a Celtic warrior standing up to the Italian Mob, and Stevenson is obviously having a whale of a time, giving a charismatic, grandstanding performance as the cocky tough guy which hints at his underlying sensitivity. His Greene is an indomitable force of nature, an
While it works through the usual gangster clichés, it’s worth bearing in mind that Kill The Irishman is a true story. Just because being made an offer you can’t refuse is a Mafia movie cliché doesn’t mean to say that those offers don’t get made in real life. Sticking remarkably true to the real events and seamlessly blending archive news footage, Kill The Irishman is a solid, dependable, gangster thriller.
Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Linda Cardellini, Robert Davi, Laura Ramsey, Fionnula Flanagan, Vinnie Jones
Jonathan Hensleigh and Jeremy Walters, based on the book To Kill The Irishman by Rick Porello