Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Kill The Irishman
Kill the Irishman is pretty much your standard mobster biopic, minus the flair that you get with a director like Martin Scorsese. Writer/Director Jonathan Hensleigh has always been a solid talent with the pen (see: The Saint, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Jumanji) as well as behind the camera (see: The Punisher) – though I would be hesitant to call any of his work in either capacity “great.”
As such, Kill the Irishman is a solid but formulaic look at a real-life crime figure; the leading performance is simply “solid” as well. In fact, the only thing that keeps Kill the Irishman from being totally forgettable are the slew of fun cameo appearances by icons of the mobster movie genre.
The film chronicles the story of real-life crime figure Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson), a stout and proud Irishman living in Cleveland in the 1970s. Danny starts out as a tireless dock worker, but soon finds himself veering into the lane of organized crime. He takes over a local union via deals with Italian mob boss John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), and is soon catapulted to new heights of power and infamy. Of course, with those “rewards” comes exposure to all the consequences and dangers that go with Danny’s new way life – including a mob feud that soon turns the Cleveland streets into a war zone.
As stated, everything about Kill the Irishman is solid. The script – written by Hensleigh and Jeremy Walters, based on the book “To Kill the Irishman” by Rick Porrello – is your standard mobster tale: average guy wants more from life, gets into crime, everything is great at first, then the setbacks start, friends and family are lost/estranged, the noose tightens…and you can guess the end. Like many of the films Hensleigh writes, the narrative structure of Kill the Irishman follows the three-act formula to a “t”; whether you’re familiar with the story of Danny Greene or not, with this film you’re pretty much in store for a two-hour journey to get exactly where you already know you’re headed.
Like his scripts, Hensleigh’s direction is competent, but not at all refreshing or masterful - he’s not really a sophisticated visual storyteller. The movie is able to competently convey what happens from moment to moment – whether it is action or drama – but there isn’t really any deeper level of visual metaphor, motifs or style. Again, for those content with point-and-shoot directorial style, this film will be sufficient – cinephilles with more sophisticated pallattes will likely not be impressed.
Finally, there are the performances. Ray Stevenson is a guy who, like his director, is consistently solid but never really great. He has great leading man presence in films like Punisher: War Zone or as a fierce soldier in HBO’s Rome – but like both those previous roles, in Kill the Irishman Stevenson is simply playing the warrior type with a soft heart that seems to be his only trademark. In fact, in one scene alongside Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan (Lost, Four Brothers), Danny Greene is flat-out described as a…warrior type with a soft heart. Go figure. Meanwhile, Vincent D’Onofrio is acting circles around his costar, playing John Nardi as a guy so unrepentantly sociopathic that it’s genuinely funny.
As I said, the only real factor which elevates Kill the Irishman above the hundreds of mobster tales just like it are the slew of cameo appearances in the film. You have legends like Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino and Tony Lo Bianco (The French Connection) all popping up to do riffs on their greatest mobster roles; familiar wise and/or tough guys like Vinnie Jones (Snatch), Tony Darrow (Goodfellas), Steve Schirripa (The Sopranos), Vinny Vella (Casino), Mike Starr (Goodfellas, Dumb and Dumber) and even Robert Davi (The Goonies) all dusting off their guns; even the non-mobster roles are filled with familiar faces like Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption), Linda Cardellini (ER), Laura Ramsey (The Ruins) and a portly Val Kilmer as the cop who grew up with Danny Greene and chronicles his rise and fall as the film’s narrator.
The supporting cast – specifically the mobsters – all seem to be having a good time, with their tongues placed ever so lightly against their cheeks. Who knows what favors Hensleigh and Co. called on to draw so many notable names to this type of lackluster fare, but their colorful performances offer some balance to the blandness of the script, direction and leading man, making Kill the Irishman at least somewhat fun.
In the end, this is one you could rent at home on demand and be just as happy you missed it in the theater. The film is currently in limited release.
Watch the trailer for Kill the Irishman to help you make up your mind: