DVD Review: Kill the Irishman

Making a successful crime film is much more than just getting a first rate cast, a director and a good story. Sometimes it just needs the right spark to find an audience. Kill the Irishman has a fairly noteworthy cast and a director with a knack for being able to craft an engaging story. So why did it not connect with audiences in a limited release?

Because it’s a film with a limited scope that doesn’t have a good enough performance from a fairly stellar cast to carry a great story told in a pedestrian manner.

Kill the Irishman follows the tale of the man who helped bring down the influence of the mob in America, Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson). A proud Irishman who waged war against the Cleveland mob, his death wound up bringing down the influence of the Italian Mob in a way that the Cosa Nostra never really recovered from. As he moves up from the president of the local longshoremen’s union, running scams through them, to becoming a criminal mastermind in his own right, we see the evolution of the man from low life enforcer to one of the most powerful men in Cleveland. The film follows his rise from lowly longshoreman to his fight against the mob that would eventually kill him. And while it has an actor with a great presence in the lead in Ray Stevenson, it doesn’t have a great actor in the lead.

It makes all the difference because Stevenson looks the part, and feels like the part, but he never really inhabits the skin of Danny Greene. Greene was a bit more complex than the film gives him credit for and Stevenson doesn’t give him enough depth to make his rise, and fall, to make it really noteworthy. Stevenson is having an absolute ball in the role, as he gets to chew as much scenery as he can, but scenery chewing doesn’t always equate with a brilliant performance. In this case it doesn’t because Stevenson is chewing scenery but there isn’t much he’s doing beyond that.

It leaves the film, which is a fairly generic rise and fall of a mobster tale, as nothing more than that. This is a film with a deep enough supporting cast and a director who is crafting a tight narrative but it needs a big performance from a fully fleshed out lead and it has neither. Stevenson comes in with an interesting performance but it’s not good enough to raise the film from middling depths.

Presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital surround, the DVD is short on extras. But what it lacks in assortment, it makes up for it with content. Outside of the Trailer, we have the feature Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman. It’s an hour long doc about the real Danny Greene and the events surrounding the film. With interviews from everyone in that era that seemingly isn’t in prison, as well as archival footage of Greene, this is a remarkably comprehensive documentary on the man. With interviews, some archival, from people on both sides of the law (as well as some civilians and family members) it’s a fairly interesting and remarkable piece that gives a historical perspective to the film.

Kill the Irishman is perfunctory crime thriller about an engaging criminal that never caught on with audiences because it just doesn’t have that spark to bring it to the next level.

Anchor Bay presents Kill the Irishman. Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh based off the novel “To Kill the Irishman: by Rick Porello. Starring Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD June 14, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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