Kill the Irishman

Tragic Bagpipes


11 March 2011| No Comments on Kill the Irishman     by Sean Chavel


One of the worst biographical dramas ever. Kill the Irishman concerns the rise of labor leader Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson, a bruiser with a mustache) to Irish mobster and how he went to war with the Italian mafia in the streets of Cleveland in the mid 1970’s – the bedlam resulted in thirty-six bombs with many of them taking lives of criminals from both sides. In appearance, it has the bravado of a Spike Lee film and the swervy camera moves of a Martin Scorsese film. Yet the first thing that comes to mind is how overacted the film is – this has to be the most clichéd cast of Irish and Italian actors ever collected for a crime pic. As for Greene himself, he was wanted and arrested endlessly for grand larceny, extortion and racketeering except the fact that you never know what any of that even means. WHERE ARE THE SCENES TO SUPPORT THIS? It’s all tough guy stand-offs with finger-pointing and retort of who did what to whom and who did this and that. This is the kind of mobster flick they used to parody on 1990’s sitcoms and MadTV.

Initially, Danny gets to become labor president after slapping around the current  inaugurated leader Jerry Merke (Bob Gunton, warden of “The Shawshank Redemption”), but the former corrupt suits never really strike back except by wormy and hollow verbal threats. Concurrently dramatized is the love story with his first wife Joan (Linda Cardellini). Sex, then Danny gets a montage of roughing his way to real power; back to him and his wife; and suddenly a few years have passed and implicitly they are married with kids.

No film in recent memory has such problems with character arcs. Not just the character of the first wife has this problem, but others follow with haphazard transitions.

Christopher Walken, for example, has a total of four scenes. “Do you like Stroganoff?” he relishes, sounding like the Continental from Saturday Night Live. Second scene, he shares a monologue about Marilyn Monroe that ends up amounting to nothing. Third scene, he and Danny Greene turn on each other along the lines of “You f**k, I trusted you” and “F**k you, you f**k,” except we have no idea what acrimony came between them. Fourth scene continues the heated dislike. Fifth scene puts Walken in the vicinity of a bomb. Such synthetic extremes.

How about the hot grocer who becomes his next girlfriend (Laura Ramsey), with five scenes? One, she’s wary, and cautiously at arm’s length, about dating a strange guy who has no legitimate job. Second scene, she is the one that has invited him to her place, and within moments, disrobes. Third scene, she’s dodging dynamite. Fourth scene, “I don’t want to be safe, I want to live dangerously.” Final scene, tells Irishman go to the dentist and parts with “I love you.”

Val Kilmer, as a veteran cop, and the Irishmen are on opposite sides of the law. Are they old friends, are they foes, are they each other’s watchdogs? Which is it? Out of nowhere, about one hour into the movie, Kilmer does voice-over narration from his perspective. Then the voice-over is dropped – the movie never reprises the voice-over device again.

Arbitrary dates pop up out of nowhere. One of Danny’s friends gets snuffed by a dynamite blast at the docks, and yet it looks like the one rare bomb blast that a person could actually credibly survive through. Don’t bad guys think about where they plant their bombs? Without making an unnecessary property mess?

Pitiful film editing, transitions are bonkers and huge lapses in character consistency are ignored. Clichéd torpid bagpipes wail on the soundtrack in the elegiac scenes. Stereotypical criminal behavior moments occur such as when a guy grabs his crotch to say, “I got big nuts,” which supposedly connotes his badass toughness. I had this question more than once, if not, several times: “Why are they beating this guy?”

And my crucial question reprised: What exactly happened in these supposed crimes of grand larceny, exortion and racketeering? ! ! !

For the record, these actors are predictably cast: Vinny Vellas, Sr. (“The Godfather Part III”) Steven R. Schirripa (“Casino”); Mike Starr (“Knockaround Guys”); Tony Darro (“Analyze This”); Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barells”); Tony Lo Bianco (“The French Connection”); Paul Sorvino (“GoodFellas”). All these actors got to go-ahead to turn their personas into cheese. Actors Robert Davi (“The Goonies,” “License to Kill”) and Vincent D’Onofrio (“Full Metal Jacket,” “The Cell”) fare better.


106 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “State of Grace” (1990); “Casino” (1995); “Boondock Saints” (1999); “Knockaround Guys” (2002).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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