Kill The Irishman
by Del Harvey
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Kill The Irishman is a tough, hard-hitting, explosive, rough-hewn crime pic based upon the real-life exploits of dockworker turned union boss turned mob-connected Cleveland folk hero Danny Greene. Director Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) shoves us into the action right from the opening scenes, and never lets up. A product of his times and the world he grew up in, Greene’s story is one of the blue collar worker with a brain who longs for success. Since he can’t gain respectability and property through education, he does it through intimidation and the oldest method in the world, he simply takes it.
Not 15 minutes into film and actor Ray Stevenson’s Danny Greene has already slapped two guys silly and punched another out cold. Right away he gains the attention of two very important local leaders - the legit opposition to the current union leader, and mob boss John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), with whom Greene will become fast friends. It doesn’t take long for Greene to take over the dockworker’s union, and while doing that he continues to work with Nardi, doing a little late-night five finger discount from the new shipping yards across the harbor.
The story is narrated by a police detective, played by Val Kilmer. He’s a man who grew up with Greene, and their tentative friendship is tested to the limits by Greene’s illegal antics. But Kilmer’s talents have not diminished over the years, and his narrative and his few scenes help keep Greene’s story firmly rooted in reality, even if his criminal antics seem far-fetched.
Another great actor who appears in the film is Christopher Walken as a Jewish mob boss and insider. His character takes Greene under his wing, until Greene’s pride gets the better of him and his long-time protector turns his back on our anti-hero.
There are numerous recognizable supporting actors, including Sopranos mobsters Steve Schirripa and Tony Darrow, Paul Sorvino, Vinnie Jones, Tony Lo Bianco, Finnoula Flannagan, Bob Gunton, and Robert Davi. All of these fine performers do excellent work with their roles, no matter how much or little face time they are given.
I’ve seen a few reviews which are not all that favorable, which is too bad. Those reviewers lament that this is not Goodfellas or The Godfather, and that is very true. So why compare this film to those two fine directors? Can’t someone make a film within the same genre which stands on its own? I believe so. And I believe Jonathan Hensleigh has done just that.
I found Kill The Irishman enjoyable, thrilling and fascinating.
Kill The Irishman releases on DVD and BluRay June 14 from Anchor Bay. Bonus features include the hour-long documentary, “Danny Greene: The Rise And Fall Of The Irishman,” featuring never-before-seen crime scene footage; interviews with the FBI agents and mobsters who worked with Danny Greene; as well as interviews with his family and friends.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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