Movie Review: “Kill the Irishman”

Danny Greene was a two-fisted Irish-American street tough who became a force in the Cleveland mob of the 1970s before meeting his predictably unpleasant end.

“Kill the Irishman,” the movie about him, is just as predictable — a synthesis of stuff we’ve seen in every gangster movie since the ’70s — from the ethnic slurs gangsters use to describe their rivals to the tough guy talk that tough guys exchange when they’re about to brawl.

“C’mon Joey, let’s dance.”

Montages with period cars and costumes tell the story of Danny’s rise from working the docks to running a union to jail to his return to the streets, marriage and his discovery of the garbage hauling monopoly that the mob fell in love with in the ’70s.

Veteran screen tough guy Ray Stevenson (“The Book of Eli,” “King Arthur”) steps into the lead role and has everything but a good script to help him carry it off.

“You’re a strong Irish woman,” he proclaims to an elderly neighbor (Finnula Flanagan) who doesn’t suffer hoodlums. “I like that.”

Val Kilmer plays the childhood pal turned cop in pursuit of enough evidence to take down Greene. He narrates the tale, intermittently. There’s not a lot to narrate, as every guy who’s ever played a mobster — Tony LoBianco, Paul Sorvino, Christopher Walken, it’s a Who’s Who of movie mobsters.

Writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh stumbles as he forces a book into the ham-fisted Stevenson’s hands in all the early scenes, to show Danny’s love of history and his connection to a “Celtic Warrior” class. He turns Danny into a clairvoyant, letting him sermonize on Vietnam, cholesterol, “the future” of shipping (container ships) and “The Gold Standard.” Random dates pop up, identifying Danny’s history and connecting this stereotypical gangster movie to the real story it is telling.

And then there are the bombs, the murder weapon of choice in ’70s Ohio. Hensleigh makes these scenes pay off — reprisals, warnings, and the efforts to “Kill the Irishman” by those he crossed along the way.

If he’d stuck to the action scenes, maybe stripped half of the most idiotic lines — “I’ve gone straight.” “You’re about as straight a s a bent shillelagh!” — he might have had something here.

MPAA rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.

Cast:. Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer, Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Walken, Finnola Flanagan, Paul Sorvino, Tony LoBianco, Vinnie Jones

Credits: Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, produced by Al Corley, Eugene Russo, Bart Rosenblatt and Tommy Reid.  An Anchor Bay release. Running time: 1:46.

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