Jonathan Hensleigh (director of The Punisher and screenplay writer of Armageddon and Jumanji) delivers his take on the true story of the fall of the Italian Mob in Cleveland Ohio in the 1970’s.
I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), as most of my friends will testify to, and I’m always benchmarking any movie of the “mafia genre” to Goodfellas. Sitting through Kill the Irishman was one of those many times where I found myself thinking “if I had never seen Goodfellas, I might think this was a good film”. It’s not a bad film by any standard, and I enjoyed some of the surprise cameo appearances from old favourites – Robert Davi, Paul Sorvino, Vinnie Jones and Christopher Walken. I just wanted the main characters to stand out a little more and give us something we haven’t seen before.
Instead what you get when you order Kill the Irishman is a pretty standard formula for a real-life biopic of 1970’s crime figures, without too many standout performances or storylines.
The movie centres around Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson), a tough Irishman living in Cleveland, who looks out for his fellow blue-collar worker and eventually is drawn into the world of organised crime. A local mob boss (Vincent D’Onofrio) helps Danny take over the the dockside union through some shady deals and both of them develop a taste of glory at the expense of other mobrun enterprises. Val Kilmer always impresses me (especially in his recent roles), although he was badly underplayed in his role as the investigating police detective and seemed lost in the storyline. Strange considering he was the movie’s narrator.
As with such stories, the “good, bad guy” tale is dotted with confrontations, violence aplenty, and an out of context boob-scene with leads to some horizontal folk dancing action, with a side order of poor imitation porn film-music.The violence isn’t as impactful as you might think, and just seems to come along when you expect it. Again, no surprises.
The star of Kill the Irishman, Ray Stevenson is too much like his character – aspires for, but never achieves greatness. He is likeable throughout the film, but when the final scenes are played out , I found I just didn’t really mind where the movie finished. For me that’s the problem: after 106 minutes, I want to care about the characters. Hensleigh borrows from Scorsese with a “let’s finish as many characters off as possible” final 10 minutes, which may have been true to the events of Clevelands’ mob wars of that era, but I felt that an original, less obvious ending would have been a better conclusion.
Not bad, and worth a look on dvd or rental through Netflix or Lovefilm, but could and should have been better with a cast like this.