Review: KILL THE IRISHMAN - Solid & Unapologetic Gangster Film

rating: 3

(Review by Mark Zhuravsky from the U.S. where the film is released on Friday) It can be argued (without much controversy) that the most definitive gangster picture in the last two decades is Martin Scorsese€™s Goodfellas - the 1990 film covering the exploits of one Henry Hill which introduced an innervating, fleet-footed pacing to the plodding epics of the 70s and 80s. Jonathan Hensleigh€™s new film, Kill The Irishman internalizes the influences of the many films that followed in the wake of Goodfellas €“ and it doesn€™t deny it. The film is a fun, ephemeral mini-epic that races to an inevitable conclusion but oversteps its virtues when the third act attempts for something approaching gravity. Mr.Hensleigh is the director of 2004€™s The Punisher as well as the 2007 straight-to-video horror-schlock Welcome To The Jungle. Hensleigh€™s star in Kill The Irishman is character actor Ray Stevenson who has been on the scene for some time, mostly doing solid work in supporting roles ranging from last year€™s The Book of Eli to regular appearances on HBO€™s Rome. He also starred in the superior 2008 attempt at a Punisher franchise, Lexi Alexander€™s Punisher: War Zone. The story of the titular €œIrishman€, Danny Greene, reads like a recipe for a successful flick - gutsy low level dockworker rises through the ranks by intimidation and sheer audacity, then takes on the Cleveland mafia, with appropriately bloody results. While the historical accuracy of Kill The Irishman is a debate left for another day, Heinsleigh€™s film takes on the defining characteristics of its main character and smolders with intensity and then combusts, taking out one mob associate after another. Both sides see casualties and there is no shortage of small-scale explosions, especially cars. Stevenson cuts an imposing figure and is effective as Greene, operating with furrowed brow and a tense frame but Greene is not exactly a well of emotions or even opinions €“ this may be the fault of the script and it becomes a nuisance in the third act, where Danny Greene becomes a hunted martyr for the workingman€™s struggle against the criminal upper class. After a solid 90-minutes of guilt free genre action, the added solemnity saps Kill The Irishman of much of its energy. We are allowed an emotional side of Greene briefly and Stevenson delivers, but the trade-off feels unbalanced and the film ends on a down note that simply didn€™t resonate with this reviewer. Still, the good outweighs the bad and Stevenson is backed by some major talent, including Christopher Walken as a mobster, Val Kilmer as a cop who tries to bring Greene on as a permanent ally and Vincent D'Onofrio as a racketeer who sees the Irishman as an opportunity to loosen the mob€™s grip on all parts of Cleveland. Linda Cardellini pops up as Danny€™s girlfriend-then-wife, while Paul Sorvino and Robert Davi make the most of their minute appearances as a boss and assassin, respectively. Violence and vengeful retribution comes by the spoonful in Kill The Irishman and Heinsleigh doesn€™t shy away from blood and bone buckling under a variety of implements, from pipes to guns to bombs. It€™s not a tasteless picture but certainly ruthless in its depiction of mob violence. If only Greene€™s characterization was more beefed up, even at the expense of the fireworks, we may have had a formidable near classic on our hands. Instead, Kill The Irishman is a solid and unapologetic genre picture with a charismatic portrayal by Stevenson. Kill The Irishman is released in the U.S. on Friday but no U.K. date has been suggested yet.
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The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, and co-host of "It's No Timecop" podcast! Find me on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...