Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: ‘Kill The Irishman’ But Spare The Movie

Indiewire, 3.9.11

The true story of Danny Greene is not without intrigue or plot twists. The Irish dockworker first became a union head before seeking less savory work as a mob hitman. Like many before and after him, Greene earned the ire of those around him by trying to use his reputation as a negotiation tool, seeing the endless benefits of his experience mixed with an entrepreneurial know-how. Unlike others before him, organized crime didn’t know exactly what to do with the self-proclaimed “Celtic Warrior” and efforts to snuff him out were for naught. Judging by historical record, the Irishman seemed very much bulletproof.

Jonathan Hensleigh’s “Kill the Irishman,” which takes its cues mostly from Rick Porrello’s chronicle “To Kill the Irishman,” embraces the legend, fully endorsing the idea that Greene was smarter, stronger and bolder than his competition. A risky bet, sure, but you can get away with a lot by casting Ray Stevenson. The granite-faced thespian, overwhelmingly handsome even under an elaborate tumbleweed of hair and a thick ‘70s-era mustache, portrays Greene as a near-superhero.

Early on, the younger Greene is a brash difference-maker who understands the relationship between intimidation and political power. His idea of working his way up the ranks is by ripping off the docks, then retaliating for a botched hit by delivering a barrage of open-palm slaps to the crooked Union head (a simpering Bob Gunton). From there, it’s the rush of power, moving in on local hoods with a combination of bribery, bargaining and brutalization. Stevenson, all arched eyebrows and booming shoulders, isn’t a man you say no to.

Greene falls from grace and earns himself a prison stay, and upon returning to the streets, he seeks work with local mobster Shondor Byrnes. A folksy sort, Byrnes’ charm and polite manners underscore his own generous perception of the legality of his business, which involves using strongmen to retrieve debts with interest. As played by Christopher Walken, it is another of his deceptively mercurial turns. He runs a restaurant and remains slavishly dedicated to fine cuisine, dining with Greene at his mother’s house amidst tacky rose-decorated table settings and charmingly thrift store-quality chairs. It is not a surprise with Walken that he performs these tasks with the same ease that he places a pound of bills in someone‘s hand, ordering Greene be taken out.

And so it goes with the Irishman, who makes friends only to see them become enemies. Partly because of past relationships and partly due to just how intimidating he is, the attempts against his life prove futile. Always with an ace in the hole, he recognizes the value of finding the right associates, because if they all turn on you at once, they will be turning on each other. Alas, once Greene announces “The Irishman’s in business for himself now,” he becomes the most sought-after target in Cleveland history, dodging an escalating car bomb spree that leaves the streets looking not unlike modern day Detroit, where “Kill The Irishman” was filmed.

The story structure benefits an episodic feel, but Hensleigh keeps things light with a strong eye for casting. Amongst the bruisers called into action are the likes of Vinnie Jones, Paul Sorvino and Robert Davi, all doing dignified riffs on their established onscreen personas. Vincent D’Onofrio has the film’s most humane moments of the supporting characters as John Nardi, Greene’s most trusted associate. He’s a middleman not afraid to get his hands dirty but one that finds it impossible to shed his own defensiveness about being considered a minor player in the local crime scene, and D’Onofrio plays this mixture of toughness and insecurity convincingly. Val Kilmer, puffy but still-intense, is one of Greene’s former schoolmates turned local cop, and his character has to believably have contempt for Greene but also a genuine respect for his code of honor. Kilmer, an actor of great complexity no matter the size, gets to exercise acting muscles that sadly go dormant too often in his career, but also gets to chew on a few tough guy bits of dialogue about carving hearts out and eating them.
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1 comment:

val said...

Well, of course he plays it convincingly, he's Vincent D'Onofrio!

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[CURRENT PROJECTS]

List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson

"TENN" [TBA]

A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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