Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Vincent D'Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Linda Cardellini
Jonathan Hensleigh, Jeremy Walters, Rick Porello (Book)
Based upon the true story of Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson), Kill the Irishman is set largely in 1976 Cleveland when 36 bombs were detonated in the heart of the city as part of a turf war between Greene, an Irish mobster, and the Italian mafia. Greene rose from a tough Cleveland neighborhood to become an enforcer in the local mob before turning on local loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and allying with gangster John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio). Greene stops taking orders from the local mob and pursuing his own power while surviving a slew of assassination attempts that earned him the reputation as "the man the mob couldn't kill."
An Anchor Bay limited wide release indie, Kill the Irishman has the look and feel of a retro-styled gangster flick with a fairly straightforward storyline that likely would have been relegated to straight-to-video if not for its better than average cast and Anchor Bay's ability to put the flick in arthouse settings nationwide.
The film lives and breathes on the strength of Danny Greene, the man and the character. Greene makes for a compelling man, a not particularly innocent man who is still regarded as a man of the people who stands up to the business interests of the local mob and seemingly can't be taken down. He's such a compelling character that you can't help but rush home to your computer looking up the man to find out what really happened and how it all ended up in real life (Don't worry...I'm not tellin').
Stevenson, from television's Rome, makes his case for bigger and better projects as the larger than life freak of nature known as Danny Greene. Greene's reputation as a sort of "everyman" along with his uncommon courage in staring down the man creates the need for an actor who can radiate both an earthy humanity and an almost superhuman strength of will - Stevenson makes the case within the film's first minute and never lets go.
Stevenson is surrounded by a solid supporting cast including Walken, who one never tires of in this type of role, the always solid D'Onofrio and Val Kilmer, who shows up as the head of Cleveland's Police Department. Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) nicely captures the era's look and feel, Karl Walter Lindenlaub's camera work frames the pic nicely despite a bit of predictability that begins to creep in as the car explosions add up and the relationships that form over the course of the film feel strangely detached and don't quite create the connection needed to really understand Greene's actions and his commitment to them.
A solid indie action flick with a strong ensemble cast, Kill the Irishman is currently on the arthouse circuit and should satisfy most who've enjoyed gangster flicks like Goodfellas or any number of other similarly styled 70's flicks. Likely to have an even stronger life on home video, Kill the Irishman is rated R for strong language and violence.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic