Kill the Irishman (2011)
Dir: Jonathan Hensleigh
Stars: Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Linda Cardellini, Laura Ramsey and Christopher… WALKEN
I feel guilty for missing this title in the theaters: had its opening weekend on my calendar, had the best intentions of going, but in the end, I missed it. I mean, this is my kind of movie. It’s my kind of film not only because of its true story, violent nature, great performances and involvement of Christopher… WALK-en, but also because it’s the little guy. The medium film trying to compete against the big fellas: I’m sorry I missed it in theaters, because this was an action-drama well worth the price of admission.
Kill the Irishman is the true story of Danny Greene, a Cleveland native who started out working the docks and had a lifelong career in the local criminal culture of the town. Played by Ray Stevenson (HBO’s Rome, The Other Guys), Danny is a proud Irishman who honestly believes he has warrior Celtic blood running through his veins. He quickly rises to power within the Cleveland union: the scene in Act 1 showing his “change of power” with the current union boss is immensely entertaining (see note 1). From there, Greene led the union not only to the delight of his men, but also to the satisfaction of the local mafia boss.
However, as Greene’s power grew, the police started looking at him as a person of interest: when he was eventually arrested for related shenanigans, he did what he had to do for his family and agreed to report to the FBI anything that might be of interest as he went back working for the mob. The “family” set him up as a racketeer for the garbage hauling business: they wanted him to help consolidate it within their ranks. This part of his career led him to Shondor Birns – played by good ol’ Walken, in an always welcome cameo role. Birns is a restauranteur cozy with the mob, willing to help Greene get his own restaurant set up.
This part of the story is where the trouble started to brew: in a crazy circumstance, the $70,000 that Birns borrows from the New York mob is seized by the authorities when they arrest the courier who was to deliver it. And still, the “family” says Greene owes them for it! To Greene, with all of his pride and Celtic warrior blood, this outrageous demand is too much. He essentially tells the mob and Birns to, ahem, “go away” in a very eloquent array of profanity that would make the father from A Christmas Story proud. Thus begins a summer of car bombings – true story – throughout the Cleveland area that has become legendary.
I love it when a movie entertains me to the point I want to look up more about its subject. For example, the following are facts that the movie touches on: Birns did hire a hit man (or team of thugs) to kill Greene. This team failed, which emboldened Greene. He started muscling in on the mafia’s control of vending machine business and gambling in Northeast Ohio. A whole team of ATF agents were called in because of the increase in bombings, which totaled 36 in the summer of 1976. There were eight failed attempts on Greene’s life. And finally, he really truly did have a television interview with a Cleveland station in which he showed where he lived and said, “I’m not a hard guy to find.”
The cast of the film is fun as hell to watch as well: I could go on and on but I have other entries to get to – add Irishman to the cue!
Note 1: The union boss is played by Bob Gunton, who you’ll no doubt recognize as the warden from Shawshank Redemption: he’s one of those character actors I really enjoy watching, but that supporting role in Shawshank has got to be somewhat of a curse, because I have trouble seeing Gunton without immediately remembering that character in that role!