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Kill the Irishman DVD Review

Kill the Irishman (2011) movie poster Kill the Irishman

Theatrical Release: March 11, 2011 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Jonathan Hensleigh / Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, Jeremy Walters (screenplay); Rick Porrello (book To Kill the Irishman)

Cast: Ray Stevenson (Danny Greene), Vincent D'Onofrio (John Nardi), Val Kilmer (Joe Manditski), Christopher Walken (Shondor Birns), Linda Cardellini (Joan Madigan), Tony Darrow (Mikey Mendarolo), Robert Davi (Ray Ferritto), Fionnula Flanagan (Grace O'Keefe), Bob Gunton (Jerry Merke), Jason Butler Harner (Art Sneperger), Vinnie Jones (Keith Ritson), Tony Lo Bianco (Jack Licavoli), Laura Ramsey (Ellie O'Hara), Steven R. Schirripa (Mike Frato), Paul Sorvino (Tony Salerno), Mike Starr (Leo "Lips" Moceri), Marcus Thomas (William "Billy" McComber), Vinny Vella, Sr. (Frank Brancato)

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If you weren't living in the Cleveland area in the 1970s and staying on top of the local news, then the true story told in Kill the Irishman may very well be unfamiliar to you. The story belongs to Danny Greene, a strong-willed Irish American who became a key figure in the overlapping worlds of labor unions and organized crime.

Greene (Ray Stevenson) begins adulthood in 1960 working most unpleasantly with grain chips and answering to the demanding, unsympathetic union president (Bob Gunton). In settling a friend's gambling debt with the local Italian Mafia, Greene arranges to become the longshoremen union's new president and establish a mob connection.
Greene stands up to his predecessor and his oversized enforcer, demonstrating the might and determination for which he will become famous. Greene's reign as union leader ends quickly when a newspaper reporter uncovers the rampant corruption in place. Greene avoids a 10-year jail sentence that would separate him from his wife (Linda Cardellini) and young children by agreeing to be an FBI informant. Neither he nor the movie quite follows through on this front.

Soon enough, Greene is working as a debt collector for loan shark Shondor Birns (a briefly-seen Christopher Walken). When that relationship sours, Greene takes over Shondor's duties, becoming seen as an integral but impudent link in the Cleveland mafia chain of command. The Irishman's line of work has consequences for friends and family; some of the former end up dead, while the latter leaves him. The events are relayed by police detective and former classmate Joe Manditski (Val Kilmer), who narrates sparingly. Among Greene's associates are partner John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio) and muscle Keith Ritson (Vinnie Jones). The Irishman picks up a new love interest in Ellie (Laura Ramsey), a skeptical but intrigued young grocer.

Danny "The Irishman" Greene (Ray Stevenson) becomes an influential figure in Cleveland's 1970s organized crime scene, associating with the likes of mobster John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio).

Kill the Irishman is the third film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, whose eighteen years of writing credits include such things as Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Jumanji, The Punisher (which he also directed) and assorted Young Indiana Jones installments.

Irishman's subject matter and period setting inevitably call to mind the films of Martin Scorsese. The DVD's cover quote proclaims it "The best gangster film since Goodfellas" and while that's unsurprisingly not true, it isn't too far off-base. Hensleigh's movie plays out with considerably less flair and a much smaller music budget, but it manages to provide some of the color and character that make Goodfellas and its increasingly respected cousin Casino so deeply admired.

Not that such comparisons make Kill the Irishman look great. The story is much too rambling to truly utilize the impressive amount of talent in front of the camera here. Plus, Hensleigh and novice co-writer Jeremy Walters don't have anywhere near the knack for language and dialogue that Scorsese and his collaborator Nicholas Pileggi do. But held up to the gold standards of modern crime cinema, no film can really emerge favorably. That this one doesn't completely crumble under such scrutiny indicates there is plenty of merit, which especially stands out when placed alongside the typically dismal Hollywood offerings of the year's first half.

Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken), the loan shark under whom Danny finds work, tells a Marilyn Monroe anecdote over an intimate lunch. Police detective Joe Manditski (Val Kilmer) is less prominent in the film than his narrating duties suggest.

Films like this offer rich acting opportunities and the cast assembled here does not disappoint. Afforded one of the biggest roles of his own 18-year career, genuine Irishman Ray Stevenson (an actor you may struggle to remember from his roles in movies like King Arthur, The Book of Eli, The Other Guys, and, coincidentally, Punisher: War Zone, with which Hensleigh was unaffiliated)
does a nice job with the vast majority of screen time. Other reliable but often unsung actors like Mike Starr and Robert Davi supply limited but strong support.

One of the movie's smartest decisions is to put real news footage on this story to great use, even seamlessly implementing the cast where appropriate. The broadcast excerpts enforce the period and historical significance, as do the rest of the film's recreations.

Kill the Irishman got decent reviews but a low-budget movie such as this was destined for limited release, the specialty of acquisition distributor Anchor Bay Films. Opening in five theaters in March and expanding to 56 in early April, Irishman has grossed a modest $1.18 M in the domestic market, which still qualifies it as the third biggest performer in the studio's four-year history (trailing last year's City Island and Solitary Man). Wasting no time, Anchor Bay brought the movie to DVD and Blu-ray today.

Kill the Irishman (2011) DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.98 SRP),
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Kill the Irishman boasts excellent picture quality in the DVD's 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. The element is clean and its colors are as vibrant as '70s colors could or should be. Sharpness and detail satisfy fully as well.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also good. It is full of car bombs and home explosions. In addition, it evokes the dramatized period with affordable, unfamiliar song licensing, and never lets you forget Greene's heritage with a flavorful score whose top-billed instrument is a tin whistle.

The real Danny Green gives a shirtless interview in a "Rise and Fall of the Irishman" news segment recreated in the film. The Irishman cocks a pretend trigger on the DVD's stylish main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Kill the Irishman only has one major bonus feature, but it's a big one. "Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman" (1:00:24) is a thorough biographical documentary. It includes interviews with Greene friends, family members, acquaintances and experts, as well as other Collinwood area residents.
It also features news reports, some excerpted in the film, from which this is independent (but directed by its producer Tommy Reid, brother of unlikely fellow producer Tara Reid). The piece attests to many of the details within the film (vouching for its authenticity) and elaborates some on the legend and the man himself. It doesn't hold one's attention the way the movie does, but it's still a nice complement to it.

The DVD also kindly preserves the film's original theatrical trailer (2:08), distinguished by prominent use of a questionable modern song.

The disc opens with nine minutes of trailers, promoting Tekken, Meet Monica Velour, The Big Bang, and Beautiful Boy. These are not menu-accessible.

With split screens and freeze frames pulled from the trailer, the crosshairs-cursored main menu montage stylishly previews the film. The Eco-Box keepcase is topped by plain, redundant cardboard slipcover.

Danny's wife Joan (Linda Cardellini) is unimpressed by the slummy neighborhood their young family will next call home. In self-defense, Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) shoots to kill when an irate friend comes gunning for him.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Kill the Irishman is a good, not great, film in the vein of Donnie Brasco and Martin Scorsese's crime dramas. Strong performances and a rich subject make it easy to overlook average writing and a familiar design. The feature presentation of Anchor Bay's DVD cannot be faulted in any way and though the hour-long documentary overstays its welcome, it stands as fitting company to the movie. Fans of the genre are encouraged to check out this easily-missed disc.

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Kill the Irishman Songs List: Kool Blues - "I'm Gonna Keep On Loving You", The Two Guys - "Crazy Little Notion", Leroy Osbourne - "All I Want Is You", The Pentagons - "I Like the Way You Look at Me", Helene Smith - "Wrong or Right He's My Baby", "How About You", Daniel May - "Meet Me for a Martini", The Irish Experience - "Paddy on the Landfill", "Courting Clarinets", "Heart of Gold", Lewis Lamedica - "This Is It", Eugene Blacknell - "Get in a Hurry", Death - "You're a Prisoner", Soul Blenders - "Broadway Shing-a-Ling", Lake Smash - "Daffy Dotty Day", Gary Michael Allen - "I'm Running Out of Time", "Cielo e Mar", "Sulla Riviera", "Eternal Father For", "For Smiling Face", Christopher Blue - "It's Not Too Late", Pat Cusick - "Drive Drive Drive", Christopher Blue - "Don't Worry Tracy", The Automatics - "Like a Moth Into a Flame", Jamey Scott and Eric Rigler - "Bonny Portmore", The Rogues - "Bonny Portmore", "Seaport Lane"

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Reviewed June 14, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Anchor Bay Films, Code Entertainment, Dundee Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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