Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity, 106 minutes
“Kill the Irishman” an entertaining, gritty look at real-life mafia
“Kill the Irishman” is the entertaining new crime-drama based on real events and real people, and on a “Pulp Fiction”-type level it succeeds grandly. Violently but thoroughly enjoyable, it’s unrevealing and relies heavily on stereotypical mafia types, but it’s superbly acted by some A-list character actors.
“Kill the Irishman” is based on the exploits of a real-life crime boss and FBI informant named Danny Greene (played by Ray Stevenson of “The Punisher” fame here), an Irish-American based out of Cleveland in the 1970’s. The tough-minded but kind-hearted Danny first becomes involved with the Cleveland underworld when he becomes a union boss, including John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), who later becomes a close ally of Danny. When Greene attempts to take a loan with assistance of a local loan shark (Christopher Walken), he angers the wrong people, including a group of Italian mobsters with ties to New York City and it sparks a bloody mob war within the city that garners national attention.
“Kill the Irishman” is a stout, enjoyable true-life crime drama, though it’s unfortunate it couldn’t have been made earlier, before the likes of Tarantino and “The Sopranos” popularized them. It’s based on the 1998 best-selling nonfiction book “To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia” by Rick Porrello, which is an account of Greene’s life in Cleveland. Writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh (also of “The Punisher”) changes some details of Greene’s life, though it certainly portrays Greene as a colorful, smart character who angered many of the wrong people.
Irish actor Stevenson’s engaging performance as Greene anchors the film, though the highlight is all those creative explosions which pepper the film. It becomes a little redundant after awhile, and some of it is very stereotypical, but you get a sense that these folks actually lived their lives this way. Watch for a host of other A-list character actors who also do a superb job, including D’Onofrio and the always-watchable Walken in a role that’s far smaller than the trailers make it seem.
“Kill the Irishman” is still an entertaining, colorful look at Cleveland mafia in the 1970’s, and the gritty vibe it gives off is worth a look.
Wes’s Grade: B