More than a cat’s nine lifes: “Kill The Irishman” with Ray Stevenson

This entry was posted on 12.03.2011

How many mobsters does it take to kill one Irishman? A lot – at least when the Irish man is called Danny Greene, who sees himself as a the descendent of a “Celtic Warrior”. The (more than a cat’s nine) life(s) of the Union guy and mobster from Cleveland is chronicled in the movie “Kill The Irish Man”, fittingly released just before St. Patrick’s Day.

Just seconds into the movie the viewer already knows that Greene can’t be the most popular guy in his hometown. His car radio starts smoking, and Greene (played by “Rome”-star Ray Stevenson) is barely able to jump out before his car explodes. Without spoiling the movie: This won’t be the last attempt on his life. The real life Danny Greene claimed that he killed at least eight Mafia hit men who tried to assassinate him.

How did it get it to this? Director Jonathan Hensleigh, who is better known for his writing credits (“Die Hard: With a Vengeance”), follows his Irish hero from an early age on – even if Stevenson doesn’t really look as if he is in his Twenties. Greene is a big-mouth, he even stands up against the local Union boss – and ultimately takes his position. He also negotiates with the local Mafia boss over a friend who can’t pay his betting debt. Stevenson eventually ends up doing business with them.

All the time he remains “typical Irish”: Proud (he even drives a green car) and stubborn. He deals with the FBI, and doesn’t give them anything, he works for the Mafia as a muscle, but stays away from them as well.

Things go sour when Greene tries to build an Irish bar with money borrowed from the New Yorker Gambino family. He never receives the money, the courier spends it on a drug deal and gets busted. Greene refuses to pay back the 70,000 Dollar, and “Shondor” Birns,an important Jewish criminal and his middle man, wants to get the Irish guy killed – a decision that eventually leads to almost 30 bomb explosions in Cleveland in 1976/77.

Hensleigh has an amazing cast for this period piece: Christopher Walken plays “Shondor” Birns, a chubby Val Kilmer plays the cop who also narrates the story, Vincent d’Onofrio is Greenes sidekick John Nardi. The director also uses some of the usual suspects in Mobster movies – including Steve Schirripa (“Sopranos”), Paul Sorvino and Tony Darrow. Sadly most of them are a little too 2-dimensional, since the movie almost exclusively follows Greene.

Still – “Kill The Irish Man” is a more than solid period piece (it even uses real tv footage with a famous interview Danny Greene gave back then).It’s entertaining and funny, and with a running time of 106 minutes perfectly time to enjoy.

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