Kill The Irishman is the kind of film that makes me want to kill Irishmen.
I appreciate that this 2011 movie about legendary Cleveland one-time labor leader and full-time thug Danny Greene takes its liberties with history in the effort to create a gritty, 1970s era gangster flick. However, it paints its subject in such a flattering light that I cannot honestly tell if it is not meant to be satirical.
Let's get this straight ...
Growing up in Collinwood, Greene has the crap knocked out of him a lot by the Italian kids, which entirely justifies his virulent race-hatred for all Italians.
As a longshoreman, Greene was passionate about unfair working conditions. Working in 110 degree heat didn't harm him, because Danny Greene is Irish and stronger than most men, but it killed his Irish warrior pride that he didn't have the clout to stand up to the union bosses who demeaned his fellow workers. (Cue the low Irish whistle, you know, from Titanic, symbolizing 1,000 years of Irish dignity in the face of British tyranny.)
Soon after, Danny bitch slaps the President of the Longshoreman, and takes over. I mean he actually slaps him a couple times, and that it's it. Danny Greene is the president of the local.
At roughly the same time Greene has a few drinks at a local tavern where he is hit on by the sweet, Irish barmaid (played by Italian-American actress Linda Cardellini, which is funny when you think about it) and they have sex in his car. This is not torrid because there have been no mention of women so far in the entire film and so this must be a first time for him. It's okay because he will marry her.
However, before he can orgasm, one of his old friends knocks at the window of the car, with his new girlfriend's head on the dash and feet on the ceiling. Instead of doing what any other human male would do and tell his friend to get the fuck out of here, he pulls up his pants and goes to assist his desperate pal out of a fix with the Cleveland Italian mob.
In a life-altering decision, without which a good boy like Danny Greene would never have entered a life of crime, he gets his pal off the hook by assisting the Mafia with a heist on the docks. This explains why Greene so easily entered into a system of racketeering as a union boss, and by the look of things the only blemish in his presidency. Life was good, he married the only girl he'd ever had sex with, and he was kind and generous to all members of the union. You can tell because the union office used to look like shit, and Danny made it look professional and nice and well-lit.
It is a shame the police arrested him for stealing things all the time. He lost everything and had to move back to Collinwood, where he and his pals were good guys who even drove the disgusting bikers out of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, his current work as an enforcer (i.e., a dope who beats the crap out of people who can't pay back their loan shark) for Alex "Shondor" Burns meant his wife, who you have to admit after several years had gotten kind of shrewish over everything, left him. Poor Danny.
Shondor was a notorious leader in the Cleveland Jewish mob, and they got Christopher Walken to play him which means you know he's going to be eccentric and dangerous. Danny borrows money from him to open a legitimate Irish-themed club, and when the courier gets busted by the Feds, Shondor takes out a contract on Greene. Kill the Irishman. But Danny's not afraid, he has Celtic warrior blood in him. It was war between Danny Greene and Shondor Birns. Cue the mournful Irish whistle. I swear to God, if they had the budget they'd have gotten U2 to compose one of their fecking awful tunes for the closing credits.
Danny Greene was a good man, and he was always right. When he was ordered to whack a guy who was a good friend, he refused choosing instead to blow up his car as a warning. When the guy came at him with a gun, Danny was entirely justified to shoot him. At a time in history when every white man of his age and background supported the Vietnam War, Danny was against it, comparing American Imperalism in Southeast Asia to the British occupation of Ireland (cue the whistle.) When the now-single, porn-'stached, mid-70s Danny starts hitting on an 18 year-old stock girl at the West Side Market we know its true love because he's only been with one other woman, ever, and she left him.
Side note: Vincent D'Onofrio as Danny Greene co-conspirator and Italian mobster John Nardi ("The only dago I can stand." - Danny Greene) has the distinction of actually being more attractive than the historical John Nardi, while still having the face of Vincent D'Onofrio, and making a plate of crappy diner spaghetti look really seriously delicious.
Like other great movies that take place in Cleveland (Major Leagues, Howard the Duck) this one was not filmed anywhere near Cleveland. However, I was stirred by the establishing shot of downtown circa 1975, which removed the Key and Huntington Bank buildings from the skyline.
To be continued ...