Review: Kill the Irishman

Danny Green, a Cleveland 1970’s union boss turned mobster, doesn’t drink and has the emotional range of a Secret Service bodyguard. Allegedly book smart, the Irishman (Ray Stevenson) can’t even come up with an anti-Italian ethnic joke better than you’d hear in a remedial reading class.

“Kill The Irishman,” beset with a cliched script written by director Jonathan Hensleigh that’s practically a spoof on its own highly recognizable organized-crime supporting cast (Paul Sorvino, Tony LoBianco, Vincent d’Onofrio), provides minimal movie mob thrills given that cast’s acting chops.

Telling the true-story (it must be–there’s real newsreel footaage thrown in) of Danny’s rise from grunt worker to union boss to mob enforcer to mob target, the film has its moments but staggers too often.

When none other than Christopher Walken enters the scene as Shandor Birns, a fastidiouly prudent Jewish operative, the film’s problem becomes clear. Walken is only in a few scenes. Shame. His presence and that of Sorvino, as mob bigwheel Tony Salerno, who’s in even fewer scenes, kick the film up several notches. Green is a stoic character who rarely expresses anything unless it’s a platitude about his “Irish warrior” tenacity, He speaks so seldom in the film when he does we’re startled into a “What got into you?” response. The charisma gap in
his pivotal scenes with Walken and Sorvino gives the film an uneven, off-kilter vibe. Then there’s the film’s two women characters, his wife, and later, his girlfriend, who are written even more cardboard than Danny is. I know, I know. Women of that time period and culture were docile by nature. Well there’s docile, and then there’s inert. The charisma gap here is similar to what happened in the Oscar telecast. After enduring our young, out-of-their-league or just-victims-of-poor-writing hosts, in walks Billy Crystal and we’re suddenly in a different program.

Unless you’re a huge fan of Walken, save the time and stream “Mean Streets” instead. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for quite a thrill.

6 cliches out of 10

Leave A Comment