Review: Kill The Irishman
PLOT: The true story of Danny Green (Ray Stevenson) an Irish mob enforcer who went to war with the Cleveland Mafia during the seventies, surviving dozens of assassination attempts, and cutting a swath through the citys mob leadership.
REVIEW : Theres nothing I love more than a good gangster flick. Whether they are old-school Warner Bros flicks starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft or James Cagney, or modern-day mob epics, I just cant get enough of them. GOODFELLAS is arguably my favorite film of all-time, with other gangster tales like SCARFACE, CARLITOS WAY, and the first two GODFATHER movies not lagging too far behind. Suffice to say, KILL THE IRISHMAN is a film Im been waiting to see for a long time.
I harbor no illusions. Director Jonathan Hensleigh is not Martin Scorsese (who is?), and KILL THE IRISHMAN, despite its intriguing subject matter, seemed like it was going to be a B-movie, with this getting a modest theatrical roll-out before hitting DVD and VOD, where I wager this will really find its audience. Hensleighs last movie was the Thomas Jane take on THE PUNISHER, which I hated when it came out, but nowadays, actually seems not so bad compared to Lexi Alexanders ludicrous (but still entertaining in a so-bad-its-good kinda way) sequel/reboot, PUNISHER:WAR ZONE.
Ironically, Hensleighs leading man happens to be Ray Stevenson, who played the title role in WAR ZONE. Obviously, that film was no showcase for Stevensons talents- which are formidable if you happened to catch his work on HBOs ROME. As Green, he really gets a juicy role to sink hes teeth into, with Green having been quite the wily gunslinger. The first scene perfectly establishes the tone, with Green cruising along in his car, when all of a sudden his tape deck shorts out, alerting him that a car bomb is about to be detonated. He dives out in the nick of time, and his car goes up in flames. Stevenson, as Green, gets up, dusts himself off, and yells at the bombers is that all ya got? Itll take more than that to kill Danny Green! Sound unbelievable? Well, guess what. It really happened.
At only 100 minutes, KILL THE IRISHMAN is not the gangster epic it might have been under someone like Scorsese, but it more than gets the job done. Greens rise, from longshoreman, to union boss, to contract killer (with a conscience), fits the classic gangster archetype to a T, and Stevensons a blast in the part. It helps that Stevensons got the face and build of a guy thats lived a life, and isnt some preening Hollywood pretty boy, making him easy to swallow in the role.
The rest of the cast is similarly strong, despite being made up of a bunch of character actors that are unfairly regulated to cheap potboilers most of the time. Chief among them is Val Kilmer, who plays Greens cop adversary, who narrates the tale. Kilmers still a really talented actor, and its nice to finally see him pop up in a role thats worthy of him. He also looks better than he has in years, with him seeming slimmer than he has in recent films.
Also excellent is Vincent DOnofrio as Greens gangster pal, who goes to bat with him against the rest of the mob, and stays a loyal ally. As for Christopher Walken, sadly, his role is smaller than I thought. He plays loan shark Shondor Birns, and gets in a few great scenes (complete with some terrific Walken-isms) and seems to be having fun. That said, I wish he was in it more.
FREAKS & GEEKS alum Linda Cardellini turns up as Greens wife, but it must be said; her role is window-dressing, and not much more. Shes fine- but this is a guy flick, and the female roles are pretty two-dimensional, which is a bit of a letdown. My other issue with the film is the soundtrack, which is more than a little melodramatic, and too over-the-top in the whole Irish sentimentality quotient- to the point that at times I felt like I was watching THE QUIET MAN rather than a tough-as nails mob epic. Oddly, its the one major criticism I also had for Hensleighs PUNISHER film.
Still, those problems dont keep this from being a really cool gangster flick, although it must be said that the low-budget keeps it from feeling like a top-tier mob film like GOODFELLAS, or even DONNIE BRASCO. Its sad that a major studio wouldnt invest the bucks needed to turn this into an A+ picture, but sadly that was not to be. As it stands, KILL THE IRISHMAN is a lean B picture, and well-worth seeing for gangster film buffs, such as myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope we get to see more quality mob movies sooner rather than later.
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