Judge Roy Hrab has nothing against the Irish. Some of his best friends are Irish.
Our review of Kill The Irishman, published June 30th, 2011, is also available.
Based on the true story of Danny Greene, the man the mob couldn't kill.
Throw Kill The Irishman onto the already large heap of mediocre mob films trying to emulate Goodfellas.
Facts of the Case
In 1970s Cleveland, a gangster war erupted. Bombs were detonated across the city. Many died. On one side was the Irish-American Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone) and mobster John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket). On the other side, loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter) and James Licavoli (Tony Lo Bianco, Nixon). The other side really wants to kill the Irishman.
You would think a mob film based on a true story would at least have an interesting story and engaging or over-the-top performances. Amazingly, Kill The Irishman features none of these. In fact, it's pretty boring despite the presence of Walken, D'Onofrio, Vinnie Jones (Snatch), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), and Steve Schirripa (The Sopranos). Val Kilmer (Gun) is also thrown in for good measure…or some other reason, I guess; he's not in many scenes.
Instead, the film presents the story of Greene through a series of scenes beginning in the early 1960s and ending in 1976, all in a compressed 106 minute package. The timeline involved and the running time result in a story without momentum and with poorly defined characters. The film starts with Greene presented as an orphaned child, jumps to his time as a worker at the Cleveland docks under the International Longshoreman's Association (ILA). He quickly becomes president of the ILA after getting involved with John Nardi, helping him steal merchandise from the docks. While the film creates a context for Greene meeting Nardi, it never explains why Greene decides to join him and turn to a life crime and corruption. He just does it because he happens to meet Nardi, who is a criminal.
The film then fast forwards though Greene getting arrested, a poorly explained side story of Greene being an FBI informant, becoming an enforcer for Birns, getting divorced, and finally teaming with Nardi to instigate a mob war. It's all pretty much a blur with little background information and no insight. The film never establishes why Greene is a notable personality that deserves attention.
Further, the director Jonathan Hensleigh continually tries to paint a ridiculously sympathetic picture of Greene, trying to build him into some kind of intellectual, progressive, Robin Hood like character, or perhaps it's just an attempt to create the image of a complex man. Greene tells his friends that they eat too much meat and that cholesterol is bad for them. He thinks vegetarianism is a healthy alternative. He laments that the government may leave the gold standard. He gives people free turkeys. He's a "Celtic Warrior," whatever that means. Well, he may have done and said those things, but he also beats men to a pulp, shoots people, and orders assassinations. There's nothing that Greene does that excuses such violence.
None of the performances are memorable. Every character is one-dimensional or, in the case of Greene, confusing. They all do the clichéd gangster shtick. Walken does his thing. Kilmer looks bloated. Additionally, the few women characters in the film are particularly ill-served by a script that gives them next to nothing to do.
The 1080p/1.78:1 Blu-ray presentation is clean and clear. Perhaps a little too clean because the some of the explosions in the film look obviously computer generated. The audio is crisp. The dialogue and soundtrack come through without any problems.
The extras include the documentary "Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman." It's a mix of newsreel footage of Greene and interviews with his daughter, ex-wife, former teamsters, police, and others. Many of those interviewed knew Greene personally. The documentary provides some additional details about Greene's life and death, including his role as an FBI informant and the fall of the Cleveland mob following his assassination. Overall, much like the film, the doc tries to paint a sympathetic portrait of the man. A trailer is also included.
Kill The Irishman is a waste of talent, source material, and time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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