Under the Radar?: “Kill the Irishman”

Kill the Irishman is a 2011 film starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer.

It’s the story of Danny Greene, a mobster who rose to the top of organized crime in Cleveland during the late 1970s. It’s very much a mob movie, with sit downs and shoot outs, and union corruption, etc. Except with an Irish flair, which means more car bombings than I’ve ever seen in a single movie.

Also featuring a virtual who’s who of mob movie character actors, “Kill the Irishman” is a solid, low-budget gangster flick for those who are fans of the genre.

Based on the true story of Danny Greene, “Kill the Irishman” tells the story of an irish dock worker who rises to the leadership of the dockworker’s union through force and intimidation. His power grows with several successive failed assassination attempts. Local mafia leadership tries several times to have him knocked off, yet he manages to survive multiple attempts on his life. Along the way, this impresses a number of people, who begin to follow him and before long Danny has a gang of his own. The mob sees his value, however, and after a turn in the joint related to his first union stewardship, they give him control of the garbage union.

The movie shows the cost of living the life, as well. Greene falls in love with a woman (Linda Cardellini), marries her and has children, but loses her when jail and a turn in his fortune costs him everything they own. He’s also in constant danger. There are so many attempts on his life that it’s a wonder he ever gets any sleep at all. The mob tries to shoot him (more than once), bombs his car, bombs his house… it gets to the point where a bit of an urban legend rises up around the fact that he can’t be killed.

Seeing as we’ve coined the phrases “disaster porn” and “torture porn”, etc, for subgenres that offer little aside from fan service, I’d like to nominate this movie as an example of “mobster porn”. It’s filled with beatings and car bombings and sit downs and strong armed enforcers collecting on Union dues. But best of all is the nonstop string of cameo appearances from famous gangster movies and tv shows. “The Sopranos” Bobby Bacala (Steve Schirripa) is in the house, as are “Goodfellas” Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino), Frenchy (Mike Starr) and Sonny Bunz (Tony Darrow). Artie Piscano (Vinny Vella) from “Casino” shows up. Vinnie Jones – “Bullet Tooth” Tony himself – plays one of Greene’s enforcers. Robert Davi of “License to Kill” fame and Bob Gunton from “The Shawshank Redemption” are in the mix as well. For fans of gangster films, it’s like a nonstop parade of “Heyyyy the guy from…”.

That’s not to say the movie has nothing else to offer… the performances, at times, are very good. Ray Stevenson is intimidating and believably crazy in the lead role, and Linda Cardellini does a lot with her brief screentime and small role as his wife. Plus Christopher Walken is awesome to watch no matter what he does. I swear, the man could make painting a model airplane seem fascinating onscreen. Val Kilmer plays the neighborhood detective who grew up with Greene, and the two have a strange, uneasy friendship with each other. The story itself is interesting, though not all that unique amongst the mobster genre. It’s based on a true story of a crazy (and I do mean recklessly screw loose) Irishman who muscled his way to the top of the Cleveland organized crime scene in the 1970s.

On the whole, this is definitely fan service for mob movie aficionados. But I’m a big fan, so it gets a pass from me.


26 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Kill the Irishman”

  1. Nice to see someone covering this, I felt like I was one of the only people who saw it! I loved it for what it was, and as you say it featured some great performances by some cool people!

    • Exactly, right? It’s not going to win any awards or anything, but it’s like a who’s who of mob movie veterans all playing… mobsters. LOL 😀 It was fine, by me.

      I’m glad at least someone else has seen it too. I know with these “Under the Radar” posts thats always a risk (that no one else has). LOL

      • A load of the old Goodfellas/Sopranos guys show up in italian/american gangster style films all the time, mostly made for TV stuff and the quality is terrible, so it was nice to see that this film turned out really well!

        I’m a huge Kilmer fan and was excited to hear he was going to be in a mob genre film. Stevenson really nailed the role, and I cant wait to see him in the new season of Dexter coincidentally.

      • I still love it. Will never top season 4 with the Trinity killer I dont think, but last season ended brilliantly. Stevenson is a Russian mob guy I believe.

  2. I agree. Pretty good flik. The trouble I had was here’s 6foot 5 Stevenson, driving huge cars, following a regular routine and doesn’t even pick up a piece of shrapnel from the blitz he faces. My disbelief was sorely tested. In real life a motorcycle would drive by; RATA-TAT-TAT, game over. I’m thinking the real Danny Greene was a lot smarter and a whole lot less visible than this movie let’s on. But it was good enough to overlook the grade B production values.

    • True.

      I was thinking to myself why the hell would any of these guys get in a car ever? There’s easily a 50% chance of death by explosion every time they get in a vehicle. LOL.

      I’d have been walkin’ everywhere. 😀

  3. Yeah, this is a pretty solid flick. I got it from Redbox last year and wasn’t disappointed. Not a game-changer or anything, but a good enough mob film. Nice one, Fogs.

  4. Hi, Fogs and company:

    Great catch!

    Caught ‘Kill the Irishman’ quite by accident, late night and months ago.

    Great on-location sights and sounds mixed around anyone and everyone aligned with mob or gangster films. The film kind of comes out of left field, but it grabs attention quickly. Interspersed with lots of explosions. Even if Ray Stevenson’s ego gets to be too big for his own good.

    • Yeah, this is a good “stumble across” movie, that’s definitely how I found it too.

      LOL @ the lots of explosions comment. Seriously, someone should do a car bombing infographic on this movie or something. I bet there’s at least 20 of them!

      Or at least… thats how it felt to me! LOL

      • Hi, Fogs:

        Counting the number of car bombs and explosions that worked and didn’t work. One must remember that the 1970s were the heydays of IRA and IRA trained bomb makers here, though mostly abroad.

        Even though an explosion is much more spectacular, dramatic and devastating. A shooter with a rifle or pistol is much more reliable and causes far less collateral damage.

  5. I had no idea Val Kilmer is in this one too! I quite like Ray Stevenson, he was awesome in HBO’s Rome and a comic relief in Thor. I might give this a shot.

    • He WAS great in Rome, wasn’t he? That was a fun show…

      And yup, pudgy ol Val, up to his old tricks 😉 You’ll dig it, it was decent. Not going to make any best of lists I wouldnt think, but a fun watch. 😀

    • LOL. It’s such a small flick… and it really doesn’t carry that kind of “Indie Drama” edge that a lot of these smaller films do. You know what I mean? Its not a knockout by any stretch… so I can see why bloggers wouldnt bite.

      Glad you liked it though. Good to have some support on that. I liked it too Nostra!

  6. Yeah, stumbled across this one and was really glad I did. Solid review, good points, interesting take on the X + porn categories thing – odd, I seem to see the phrase more and more. At any rate, this is a very watchable film with the kind of strong pacing and detailed character work reminiscent of Departed and before Scorsese, some hints of Tarantino excesses but nevertheless one of those films you remember a week later and find plenty to talk about. I haven’t reviewed it yet, on the list though. See ya around.

    • LOL, yeah, I wish I had invented that ___ porn phrase. That’s pretty clever. Gets the point across. This is definitely the mob movie version, for sure.

      I dont know if I’d compare it to Scorsese or Tarantino in any regard, but it certainly was a decent movie. I know I enjoyed it… I’m a total sucker for mob flicks! Glad you enjoyed this one too Rory.

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