Irish gangster Danny Greene rapidly ascends the ranks of power in 1970s Cleveland by creating his own merry band of Celtic warriors. Greene goes head to head with the mob-controlled unions of the era, and eventually aggravates the Italian mafia enough to score a bounty on his head. Although nimbly paced, Kill the Irishman has little beyond its setting and wacky central character to set it apart from other films in the mob genre. Despite a strong performance by Ray Stevenson and support from a host of big-name actors, Kill the Irishman is fairly forgettable.
The film never really explains why Greene (Stevenson) chooses a life of crime. In the accompanying documentary, Greene's elementary-school teacher reveals that he was a smart boy that always looked for a fight. After struggling on the docks of Cleveland for years, Greene becomes president of the International Longshoremen's Association and meets Cleveland crime boss John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio), with whom he begins shady dealings. Greene starts smacking around anyone who mouths off, and he gains power through intimidation. Nevertheless, Greene remembers to take care of his "constituents," which gains him the support of the people.
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher), Kill the Irishman packs a lot of detail into 106 minutes. Unfortunately, most of these details are poorly fleshed out, a shortcoming that undercuts the quality of the production. The film jumps around in time, often settling on one of the many attempts on Greene's life. These scenes are pure parody in their accuracy, and Greene always manages to escape the rogue car bombs without a scrape. The film eventually cuts to Greene's arrest and time spent as an FBI informant. This storyline is confusing, because Greene's mob family and duties are never fully explained. Christopher Walken is wasted as Cleveland racketeer Shondor Birns, and Val Kilmer is barely in the film as a Cleveland police officer tracking Greene.
Another problem with Kill the Irishman is that it seems to excuse Greene's actions by portraying him as a goofy smartass with a heart of gold. It's too easy to forget the man was a killer and racketeer in light of all his outer flamboyance. Kill the Irishman is not a bad movie. Stevenson works hard in the lead, and director Hensleigh keeps the film moving at a nice pace. Neither the characters nor the story is particularly memorable, however, and Kill the Irishman comes off as generic Scorsese.
Anchor Bay's 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer mimics the 1970s-inspired look of the film. The contrast is somewhat blown out, and colors are muted to give the film its intended look. Detail is generally good, but some scenes appear a bit soft and hazy. The film was shot digitally so grain is minimal. I noticed no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction, but blacks do crush in some darker scenes.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack handles the material well. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and ambient effects and directional chatter make their way through the surround channels. A heavy LFE is present during gun battles and explosions, and the score is intermixed appropriately. A Spanish mono track is also included, as are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
The Blu-ray includes one excellent extra: Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman (60:27). This hour-long documentary chronicles the life of Danny Greene and his rise through the ranks of organized crime. The extended background on Greene puts the film in perspective, and the documentary features extended interviews and archival footage. Fans of true crime specials should really enjoy this. A theatrical trailer is also included.
Nothing sets Kill the Irishman apart from the dozens of other mob movies. Ray Stevenson is dynamic as Danny Greene, a rowdy Irish mobster who took on the entire Italian mob and lived through numerous assassination attempts, but an A-list supporting cast is wasted on the generic story. Greene may have been larger than life, but Kill the Irishman is pedestrian. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.