‘Kill the Irishman’ Relives Life of Mobster Danny Greene

Mobster movies and shows like Goodfellas and The Sopranos always bring out that underworld fascination with American audiences. The lifestyles are so provocative, violent and immoral, yet many, myself included, flock to this material like moths to a flame. The latest in the line of American mafia flicks is Kill the Irishman and contains an impressive array of actors from the likes of Val Kilmer to Christopher Walken to Paul Sorvino. Probably best known for his role as Titus Pullo in HBO’s Rome, is Irishman‘s leading man, Ray Stevenson.

Stevenson plays Irish mafia target Danny Greene in this well developed film based on a true story and the book To Kill the Irishman by Rick Porrello. Who is Danny Greene? Danny Greene’s influence in the mob underworld wasn’t just limited to Cleveland, Ohio. This guy’s existence ended up having some far-reaching national effects as far as law enforcement and organized crime is concerned, but enough with the history lesson. If you want that (aka ‘spoilers’ to some), then you need to head out and catch this brilliant piece of work. Starting out as a union shoreman on the Cleveland docks of Lake Erie, Greene was a take-no-crap, hard-headed man with nothing less than pure Celtic blood running through his veins.

Val Kilmer’s spot in the impressive cast is as Cleveland Police Detective Joe Manditski; a peer of Greene’s back in high school on the basketball court, now an adversary in the working world. Manditski takes on a “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” mentality with one eye on his surroundings and another on Greene’s actions. Along for the ride is Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) as Italian mob boss John Nardi. Nardi was Greene’s main support amidst the Italian superiority that hung over Greene’s head like a rain cloud. At first Greene would work his way up on his own, but he would reach an eventual ceiling and Nardi’s help would be paramount to Greene’s advancement in the eyes of the bosses.

Fan favorite Christopher Walken strolls the Collinwood  neighborhoods (incorrectly called “Collingwood” in the film) with power as Jewish mobster Shondor Birns. Though his supporting role is minimal, it leaves a lasting impression as Walken’s performances so often do. The man makes the most out of his limited screen time and can relay a thousand and one emotions just through the look in his eyes. Greene worked side by side with Birns and you can be certain that whatever or whomever Greene came in contact with usually became a dangerous relationship in one form or another. I can tell you that both Stevenson and Walken shared some great chemistry on screen in their illegal doings, but would you expect any less for these two great actors?

Acting veterans Tony Lo Bianco (The French Connection) and Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) serve as Cleveland and New York mob bosses respectively, nailing their roles with convincing ease as both have so often done in their careers. Both of their characters serve as key pieces in the puzzle that led to Danny Greene’s life on the run that consisted of not only dodging bullets, but the three dozen mafia-related bombings that went off in one year. Talk about keeping you on your toes. And here I thought Greene looking over his shoulder for cops would be stressful enough. But, as the old saying goes, “You play, you pay.” Based on the good Greene did for some of the citizens of Cleveland and the surrounding areas, it’s no wonder why people looked up to him and saw him as anything but a bad guy. On the other side, stereotypes happen for a reason and with the media’s constant mention of “Greene” and “mobster” in the same sentence, well, let’s just say Greene earned that label all on his own.

In this 106-minute film, you’ll experience everything from Danny Greene’s rise through the union ranks to his love life to his “God’s not ready for me yet” arrogance that can make one wonder if he truly thought he was invincible. Interspersed are actual news reels, both local and national, covering the story of the seemingly incessant detonations and Greene’s shady dealings. The film’s pace is consistently gripping, smartly bridging one issue to the next, even through considerable gaps of time. To tell this story, writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh did a magnificent job in capturing the history of all these chaotic events which took place in Cleveland throughout the 1970’s. My only complaint is the film being shot in Detroit. For authenticity’s sake, shooting on location would have made more sense, but the film still excels even with this flaw. The acting succeeds, the writing remains parallel to this and the story was not someone’s imagination, but the true story as the real people these men play let unfold in our backyards, not just in Cleveland, but from New York to L.A.


4 Responses to “‘Kill the Irishman’ Relives Life of Mobster Danny Greene”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Nice! May have to blind buy this one on Blu-ray! Great cast.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    That is a great cast! I want to see this for them alone! Good review Gregg!

  3. Gregg

    Thanks, guys. I wondered if I would enjoy the film any less if I weren’t familiar with the area as somethings mentioned in the film are places I’ve been to several times. Honestly, I don’t think it would have mattered too much. The film had so a good flow to it, such a good pace, and like you guys reiterated, the cast has a wow factor to it.

    On a separate note, and this is a spoiler if you don’t know the history (so stop reading here if you don’t want this next bit), but the Chevy Nova that blew up at the end as actually sold by my friend’s dad (he’s had car lots for years). No BS. Not the movie prop car, I mean the actual Chevy Nova that did the deed way back when. I found that out just before this review went to print but couldn’t find good placement for it in the review.

  4. Brian White

    Great review Gregg! It’s probably a blind buy for me as well 🙂