Kill the Irishman
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (March 2015)|
|Kill the Irishman|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Hensleigh|
|Based on||To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia
by Rick Porrello
|Music by||Patrick Cassidy|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Edited by||Douglas Crise|
|Distributed by||Anchor Bay Films|
|Box office||$1,188,194 (Domestic gross)|
Kill the Irishman is a 2011 biographical crime thriller film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer. The film is based on the story of Irish-American mobster Danny Greene, and is adapted from the book To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia (1998) by Rick Porrello.
Kill the Irishman was in development hell for over a decade, before being green-lit in 2009. The movie chronicles the rise and fall of Irish-American gangster Danny Greene, who initially worked as a longshoreman at the Cleveland docks, until he was chosen to serve as interim president in 1961 after the previous president was removed from office. Greene quickly won the next election and served as union president until 1964, when he was convicted of embezzling $11,500 of the union's funds. After his conviction, Greene rose through the criminal underworld in Cleveland and waged war on the mafia for control of the city.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Development
- 4 Pre-production
- 5 Production
- 6 Post-production
- 7 Soundtrack
- 8 Release and reception
- 9 Historical inaccuracies
- 10 Home video
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 External links
In 1960, Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) is a union worker at the Cleveland docks. Despite union rules, the workers are exploited by their boss, Jerry (Bob Gunton). Danny is approached by chronic gambler Art (Jason Butler Harner) for help. Art owes a substantial amount of money to local gangster John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio). Greene visits Nardi and offers him a business proposition to deal with Art's debt; he tips-off Nardi about a shipment container that contains a large quantity of valuable goods. Jerry warns Danny not to oppose him in the union's upcoming election, and demands half of Danny's earnings from his deal with John Nardi. Jerry double-crosses Danny and tries to kill him. Danny stands as a candidate for the union's presidency, wins the election, begins improving the working conditions in the docks and marries his girlfriend (Linda Cardellini).
After doing business with John Nardi and other Mafioso figures, Danny is arrested by Joe Manditski (Val Kilmer) on charges of grand larceny and labor racketeering. After paying off his lawyers, Danny is bankrupt and facing ten years in prison. Federal police offer Danny a plea bargain; in exchange for becoming an informant, the charges against him would be dropped. Danny agrees to the deal and gives the police monthly tip-offs. Nardi gets Danny a job as a money collector with loan shark Alex "Shondor" Birns (Christopher Walken). Danny and Nardi set up a meeting with Jack Licavoli (Tony Lo Bianco), who has been trying to get the garbage men of Cleveland to join the union. Danny and Nardi offer to help. Danny hires Keith Ritson (Vinnie Jones) for muscle. They visit Mike Frato’s (Steve Schirripa) house to persuade him to join the union. Frato declines and Danny considers killing him.
Art starts gambling again; accruing a large debt, he decides to testify against the mafia. Danny kills Art by blowing up Mike Frato’s car. Mike assumes Danny tried to kill him, so he tries to kill Danny. Mike fails and Danny shoots him. He is arrested by Joe (Kilmer) for killing Mike, but is without charge because it was self-defense. Danny’s wife leaves him.
Four years later, Danny sees debt collectors at Mrs O’Keefe’s (Fionnula Flanagan) home. Danny decides to pay her debt; she gives him her father’s gold crucifix. Danny then visits Shondor, who agrees to invest money in a restaurant with Danny. Shondor lends money from the Gambinos, but the courier is arrested. Shondor tells Danny he owes the mafia $70,000; because Shondor had hired the courier, Danny tells Shondor he should pay back the money. Danny’s relationship with Shondor deteriorates, and a contract is placed on Danny’s life. After an attempt to kill Danny fails, he kills Shondor by blowing up Shondor’s car.
Licavoli is made the Don of Cleveland; Danny has to pay 30% for doing business on his turf. Danny refuses and Licavoli places a contract on Danny’s life. Billy (Marcus Thomas) tries to warn Danny, but fails. Danny and his girlfriend escape unharmed when his house is blown up. Another attempt to kill Danny occurs. Nardi and Danny decide to become business partners and to bring down Licavoli and take over Cleveland together. They organize the killing of many of Licavoli’s associates. At a meeting in New York, Anthony Salerno (Paul Sorvino) offers to help kill Danny. Licavoli accepts his offer.
Danny considers buying a cattle ranch in Texas. He needs to raise $2 million, so he and Nardi travel to New York to seek a loan from Salerno. After Danny leaves, Salerno tells his associates to kill him and Nardi. They hire hit-man Ray Ferritto (Robert Davi). Nardi is killed in an explosion in Nardi's car, and Billy is killed at the docks. Keith (Jones) is killed after he mistakes Ferritto’s car for Danny’s. Ferritto then taps into Danny’s girlfriend’s telephone and retrieves information about Danny’s upcoming appointments.
After a dentist's appointment on October 6, 1977, Danny sees Ferritto driving past slowly past his car. Ferritto detonates a bomb in Danny's car; he is killed instantly. A narrator says Danny Greene's death led to the indictment of multiple high-ranking members of organized crime gangs.
- Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene: An Irish American mobster.
- Vincent D'Onofrio as John Nardi: An Italian-American labour racketeer and ally of Greene.
- Val Kilmer as Joe Manditski: A Cleveland cop who befriends Greene. Manditski is a composite character based in part on former Cleveland Police Chief Edward Kovačić.
- Christopher Walken as Alex "Shondor" Birns: A Jewish-American loanshark and nightclub owner.
- Linda Cardellini as Joan Madigan: Danny's girlfriend and eventual wife.
- Marcus Thomas as Billy McComber: An Irish American gangster who works as Danny's enforcer. He is also Danny's best friend.
- Vinnie Jones as Keith Ritson: An Irish-Lithuanian ex-boxer who works as Greene's chief enforcer.
- Tony Lo Bianco as Jack Licavoli: Caporegime and later the boss of the Cleveland crime family.
- Paul Sorvino as Anthony Salerno: Boss of the Genovese crime family.
- Fionnula Flanagan as Grace O'Keefe: Danny's elderly Irish neighbor.
- Laura Ramsey as Ellie O'Hara
- Mike Starr as Leo "Lips" Moceri: An associate of Jack Licavoli's. He is loudmouthed and short-tempered.
- Steve Schirripa as Mike Frato: The owner of a garbage business in Cleveland. He is eventually killed by Greene.
- Bob Gunton as Jerry Merke: He is the president of the union and he controls all of the workers in the Cleveland docks. Danny Greene successfully runs against him for presidency of the union.
- Tony Darrow as Mikey Mendarolo: He is an associate of Mike Frato.
- Jason Butler Harner as Art Sneperger: A compulsive gambler and a friend of Danny Greene's.
- Robert Davi as Ray Ferritto: An Italian American contract killer for the crime families in Cleveland and Los Angeles. He is hired to kill Danny Greene and John Nardi.
- Cody Christian as Young Danny Greene
- Dante Wildern as Young Billy McComber
‘Kill the Irishman’ had been in development since 1997. Producer Tommy Reid heard that Rick Porrello, an Ohio policeman, was about to publish a book about Greene called To Kill the Irishman. Reid flew to Ohio and met with Porrello, who told Reid his grandfather was a high-ranking mafia figure in Cleveland during the prohibition era. Reid and Porrello bonded with each other during the meeting. On March 17, 1998, they signed a deal for the film rights to Porrello’s book. Getting Kill the Irishman produced was difficult. Reid frequestly left deals unconcluded, and discovered that the script he’d commissioned was attached to a cover with another screenwriter and producer’s name listed. Reid said this galvanized him into action, and it was a common occurrence in Hollywood. Tommy Reid spent over $1,000,000 to ensure the movie was made.
Producer Tommy Reid, who grew up in New Jersey, was fan of mafia movies such as The Godfather and Goodfellas. he aspired to become a film maker. Being of Irish and Italian ancestry, he wanted to make a film that would relate to both nationalities. Reid first heard about mobster Danny Greene from his roommates in Ohio, and he believed New York, Chicago and Boston were the "three meccas of mafia crime". There was not much documentation about Greene, but Reid remembered the story he had been told. After hearing that Rick Porrello was about to publish a book about Greene and the mafia in Cleveland, Reid was inspired to make a movie about Greene’s life.
Prior to making Kill the Irishman, Tommy Reid did extensive research on Danny Greene's life and organized crime in Cleveland. He spoke with nun Sister Barbara Eppich, who helped to raise Danny Greene during his childhood. Reid stated that Greene's life was "basically laid in front of him for the rest of his life". Eppich told Reid that Greene was abandoned during childhood and was raised by his grandfather. She said Greene's grandfather worked nights, so Danny was left to "roam the streets at night". Eppich also said Greene would go to school dirty and that the nuns would have to wash him. She also said Greene would sleep all the time but was a "phenomenal athlete".
Reid also spoke to various law enforcement organizations, including the FBI. Reid said the FBI, they wanted to make sure the mafia was not being glorified. He said he had no intention of glorifying crime, and that "the whole message at the end of the movie is that crime doesn’t pay". It was very important to Reid that audiences did not misinterpret his intentions.
Although the film's screenplay was adapted from Rick Porrello's book, Porrello "had minimum involvement" with the writing of the screenplay, most of which was written by Jonathan Hensleigh. Hensleigh regularly contacted Porrello and they agreed not to use the real names of anyone who was still alive, "out of respect and sensitivity towards these people". Porrello also considered that many of the relatives of the organized-crime figures portrayed in the film were still alive.
Tommy Reid began to accept the possibility that his movie would never be made, so he decided to make a documentary about Greene called "Danny Greene: the Rise and Fall of the Irishman". Reid became so specialized in the Northern Ohio crime scene and Greene’s life that he wanted to do something about it. Reid said he thought "at least I can go to my grave saying I tried, and at least I made this documentary". In 2009, with 17 hours of the documentary shot, Reid heard that his film had been green-lit. He joined forces with production company Code Entertainment and engaged a "bankable" director, Jonathan Hensleigh. They signed actors Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken to the project.
They later signed actors Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), and Irish actor Ray Stevenson who agreed to play Danny Greene. Stevenson was filming The Book of Eli when he got a telephone call from Hensleigh, and they arranged to meet in Los Angeles. Stevenson was drawn to the script and immediately made a deal. He said Hensleigh's script was "the biggest draw ever [to the movie]".
Kill the Irishman entered production in 2009, with a budget of $12 million. The film was shot within seven weeks, mostly in and around Detroit. The location filming was done in Detroit, partly because the city gave tax credits that Cleveland would not match. Detroit also more closely resembled Cleveland during the 1970s. Ray Stevenson said Cleveland "has prettied itself up" and that they wanted to film there but the city had changed. Stevenson also said Detroit is still "on its knees", and that the city resembles the economic struggles that plagued Cleveland during the 1970s.
A number of incidences occurred during the filming of the movie. Seven bullet holes were shot into one of the trucks used during production. Ray Stevenson said, "Detroit is a dangerous place" and that you've "just got to roll with it". As the cast and crew were driving from the set, a pedestrian was shot in the neck outside a supermarket at night. The ambulance took 35–45 minutes to arrive, and the victim waited another 35–45 minutes for the police to arrive. The paramedics refused to take the victim to a hospital without a police escort. Stevenson said this was a "known gang area" and that "if it's a gang member they're trying to resuscitate", there was a chance a rival gang would shoot at the ambulance.
Due to the films’ limited budget, some of the effects could not be replicated. Stevenson said everyone “had to be on point”, and that any mistakes could not be rectified by re-filming. Before filming the effects, the production crew and the actors checked everything on the set. Time was also lacking; Stevenson said everyone “had to be extremely focused” on the production. The movie was shot in seven weeks; Stevenson stated that “it looks like a $30 million movie”, “which is a testament to everybody involved”. The final scene, in which the vehicle parked next to Greene's car is blown up, killing Greene, could not be re-filmed. Producer Tommy Reid said they could not afford to film the shot twice.
Writer Rick Porrello had second thoughts about one scene, in which a police car is blown up with two officers inside, being included in the film. Porrello felt uncomfortable approaching Hensleigh about the scene, but he did anyway. Porrello said, "if you are going to kill a cop", it is "going to change the tone of the story". The scene was nevertheless included in the finished film.
The soundtrack for the movie includes 26 songs.
- I'm Gonna Keep On Loving You - Kool Blues
- Crazy Little Notion - The Two Guys
- All I Want Is You - Leroy Osbourne
- I Like The Way You Look At Me - The Pentagons
- Wrong Or Right He's My Baby - Helene Smith
- How About You - Steven Lang, Jamie Dunlap & Scott Nickoley
- Meet Me For A Martini - Daniel May
- Paddy On The Landfill - The Irish Experience
- Courting Clarinets - Stefan Maciejewsk
- Heart Of Gold - Norman Chandler
- This is It - Lewis Lamedica
- Get In A Hurry - Eugene Blacknell
- You're A Prisoner - Death
- Broadway Shing-A-Ling - Soul Blenders
- Daffy Dotty Day - Lake Smash
- I'm Running Out Of Time - Gary Michael Allen
- Cielo E Mar - Paul Pritchard
- Sulla Riviera - Bruno Bertoli
- Eternal Father For - Michael Hankinson
- Your Smiling Face - Norman Chandler
- It's Not Too Late - Christopher Blue
- Drive Drive Drive - Pat Cusick
- Like A Moth Into A Flame - The Automatics
- Don't Worry Tracy - Christopher Blue
- Bonny Portmore - The Rogues
- Seaport Lane - Athena Tergis
Release and reception
‘Kill the Irishman’ premiered on March 11, 2011, at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York City. Most of the cast, including Ray Stevenson and Vincent D’Onofrio, attended the premiere. The movie also premiered simultaneously in Los Angeles and Cleveland before expanding to Detroit, Chicago and Boston on March 18.
Although the movie was generally well received, its box office performance was disappointing. The film grossed $1,188,194 at the domestic box office against a budget of $12 million, and gathered $2,435,527 in domestic DVD sales.
Kill the Irishman received mixed-to-positive reviews from film critics. Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "What makes this film special and memorable is the character of Danny Green, who is not the usual neighborhood hoodlum you see in movies, the kind who gets in deep and gradually loses his soul". Marshall Fine of Huffington Post gave the film a mixed review. He criticized it for jumping through different events in a "jerky fashion", but summed up the review by calling it a "movie with a lot of meat on the bone, even if some of it is tough or stringy. It's not fancy, but it's always tasty".
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% of critics gave the movie a positive review, giving it a rating of 5.6 out of 10. The movie has a rating of 7.2 out of 10 on IMDB, based on the votes of over 31,000 IMDB users. A majority of users gave Kill The Irishman a rating of 7 out of 10.
The death of Alex "Shondor" Birns
Kill the Irishman contains several historical inaccuracies. This has been noted by many critics, one of whom said the film's main problem is that it seemed "all too willing to sacrifice historical accuracy in the name of an easy-to-digest narrative". In the movie, Danny Greene kills Shondor Birns by detonating a bomb on his car. In reality, even though Birns was killed by a car bomb, there was no evidence to link Greene to his murder. Even though it is commonly speculated that Greene killed Birns, his murder remains officially unsolved.
Many of the dates given in the movie are inaccurate. For example, Shondor Birns was murdered on March 29, 1975, whereas in the film this occurs on March 8. The movie misspells the name of the church near which Shondor was murdered. In the movie it is spelled "St. Malichy's", whereas in reality it is called "St. Malachi's".
The death of Art Sneperger
In the movie, Greene discovers his friend Art Sneperger is about to become an informant and decides to kill him in a car bombing. Greene has have Sneperger place a bomb on Mike Frato’s car; Greene then detonates the bomb early, killing Sneperger. In reality, although many rumors surround Art Sneperger’s death, it remains unsolved. Some investigators speculated that radio interference caused the bomb to detonate early; others speculated that Greene killed him after learning he was going to become an informant.
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- To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia (1998) by Rick Porrello