Kill the Irishman

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Kill the Irishman
Kill the irishman poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Jonathan Hensleigh
  • Jeremy Walters
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
  • Code Entertainment[1]
  • Dundee Entertainment
  • Sweet William Productions
Distributed by Anchor Bay Films
Release dates
  • March 11, 2011 (2011-03-11)[2]
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12,000,000[3]
Box office $1,188,194 (Domestic gross)[4]

Kill the Irishman is a 2011 biographical crime thriller film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh[5] 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)[6] by Rick Porrello.[7][8]

Kill the Irishman was in development hell for over a decade, before finally being green-light in 2009.[9] The movie chronicles the rise and fall of Irish, American gangster Danny Greene. Greene was a union president, until being convicted of embezzling $11,500 of the union's funds.[10][11] After this, Greene rose his way through the criminal underworld, and eventually waged war on the mafia for control of organized-crime in Cleveland.[12]


In 1960, Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) is a union worker at the Cleveland docks. Their boss Jerry (Bob Gunton) overworks them – despite the union rules.

After leaving a bar, Danny is approached by Art (Jason Butler Harner) for help. Art has a gambling problem and 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 Arts’ debt. Greene then gives Nardi a tip-off about a shipment container that contains a large quantity of valuable goods.

The next day at work, Jerry warns Danny not to run against him in the unions upcoming election, and demands half of what Danny has been earning from his deal with John Nardi. After being double crossed by Jerry (who tried to kill him), Danny runs against him for the union presidency. After winning the presidency, Greene starts to improve 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 left broke and facing ten years in prison. The feds offer Danny to become an informant, and in exchange the charges against him would be dropped. Danny agrees to the deal and gives monthly tip-offs to the feds.

Because of Danny’s financial problems, Nardi gets him a job with loan shark Alex "Shondor" Birns (Christopher Walken). Danny works as Shondor’s muscle and collects money on his behalf.

Afterwards, Danny and Nardi set up a meeting with Jack Licavoli (Tony Lo Bianco). Licovoli has had trouble trying to get the garbage men of Cleveland to join the union, so Danny and Nardi offer to help. Danny then hires Keith Ritson (Vinnie Jones) for muscle. After going over to Mike Frato’s (Steve Schirripa) house to convince him to join the union, Frato declines. Danny then faces the possibility that Mike may have to be killed.

Art starts gambling again, and because of his large debt, he decides to testify against the mafia. Danny then kills Art by blowing up Mike Frato’s car. Mike is then under the assumption that Danny tried to kill him, so he tries to kill Danny. Mike fails and he is shot in the head by Danny. Danny is then arrested by Joe (Kilmer) for killing Mike, but subsequently gets released without charge because it was self-defense. After killing Mike Frato, Danny’s wife leaves him.

Four years have then passed. As Danny enters his home, he sees debt collectors at Mrs O’Keefe’s (Fionnula Flanagan) home. Danny decides to pay Mrs O’Keefe’s debt, and she gives her father’s gold crucifix to him (for good luck).

Danny then visits Shondor (Walken), and he agrees to invest money into a restaurant with Danny. Shondor loans money from the Gambino’s, but the courier gets arrested. Shondor then tells Danny that he owes $70,000 to the mafia. Danny tells Shondor that he hired the courier and should be the one to pay the money back. Danny’s relationship with Shondor deteriorates, and a contract is placed on Danny’s life. The first hit on Danny's life fails, and he decides to kill Shondor. He succeeds by blowing up Shondor’s car.

Licavoli is made the Don of Cleveland, and Danny has to pay 30% for doing business on his turf. After Danny refuses, Licavoli places a contract on Danny’s life. Billy (Marcus Thomas) tries to warn Danny of the hit, but fails. When Danny’s house is blown up, he and his new girlfriend escape unharmed. Another assassination attempt is then made on Danny’s life.

Nardi and Danny decide to become business partners. Together they decide to bring down Licavoli and take over Cleveland together. Many of Licavoli’s associates are then killed in hits organized by Danny and Nardi. Jack Licavoli then travels to a meeting in New York with Anthony Salerno (Paul Sorvino). Salerno offers to help kill Danny, and Licavoli accepts his offer.

Danny considers buying a cattle ranch in Texas. To do this, he needs to raise $2 million, so he and Nardi travel to New York to seek a loan off of Salerno. During the meeting, Salerno tells Danny that he will consider his proposition. After Danny leaves, Salerno tells his associates to kill Danny and Nardi. Hit-man Ray Ferritto (Robert Davi) is then hired.

After a meeting with Danny in a car park, a bomb goes off on Nardi's car. Nardi dies in Danny’s arms, and simultaneously Billy is killed in a set-up at the docks. Then as Keith (Jones) is leaving his home, he mistakes Ferritto’s car for Danny’s, and he is killed. Ferritto then taps into Danny’s girlfriend’s phone, and retrieves information about Danny’s upcoming appointments.

On October 6, 1977, Danny goes to a dentist appointment. After his appointment, Danny gets into his car and notices Ferritto driving past slowly. Danny knows that he is about to die and accepts it. As Ferritto detonates the bomb, Danny points to Ferritto with his finger (mimicking a handgun). The bomb kills Danny Greene instantly.

In a narration, the audience is told of how Danny Greene's death led to the indictment of multiple high-ranking members of organized crime. The narration ends with the narrator saying that organized crime in Cleveland hasn't been the same since.



‘Kill the Irishman’ had been in development since 1997. Producer Tommy Reid heard that an Ohio policeman (Rick Porrello) was about to publish a book about Greene called ‘To Kill the Irishman’. Reid immediately flew to Ohio and met with Porrello. Porrello told Reid that his grandfather had been a high-ranking mafia figure in Cleveland during the prohibition-era, and they both bonded with each other immediately during the meeting. On ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ in 1998, they finally signed a deal for the film rights to Porrello’s book.[12]

After signing the deal, getting Kill the Irishman off the ground proved to be problematic. Reid was constantly leaving deals where handshakes were made, but no official contracts were ever produced. Reid made shocking discoveries where (on numerous occasions) the script he’d commissioned - word-for-word - was attached to a cover with another screenwriter and producer’s name listed. According to Reid this was “wake-up 101” for him, and it was what sometimes happened when working in Hollywood.[12]

Slowly the years started passing by, and renewing the possibility of getting this film made became very costly. Tommy Reid spent over six-figures of his personal fortune to ensure that the movie was made.[12]



Producer Tommy Reid grew up in New Jersey, and being a big fan of mafia movies such as The Godfather and Goodfellas, he aspired to become a film maker. Reid is three-quarters Irish and a quarter Italian, and he wanted to make a movie that would relate to both sides of his ancestry.[16] He (Reid) first heard about mobster Danny Greene from his roommates in Ohio, and he initially didn’t believe what he was being told about Danny Greene. Reid had never heard of Danny Greene before, and he believed that New York, Chicago and Boston were the “three meccas of mafia crime”. Even though there wasn’t much documentation on the history of Danny Greene, Reid could never forget the story he was told. Then after hearing that Rick Porrello was about to publish a book about Danny Greene and the mafia history in Cleveland, Ohio, Reid was inspired to make a movie about Danny Greene’s life.[12]

Background research[edit]

Prior to making Kill the Irishman, Tommy Reid did extensive research on Danny Greene's life and organized-crime in Cleveland. Reid spoke with Sister Barbara Eppich (a nun), 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". Sister Eppich told Reid that "Danny Greene was abandoned during childhood" and was raised by his grandfather. She stated that Greene's grandfather worked nights, so he was left to "roam the streets at night". Sister Eppich said that Greene would go to "dirty" and that the nuns would have to "wash and clean" him. She also told Reid that even though Greene would sleep all the time, he was a "phenomenal athlete".[17]

Reid also spoke to various law enforcement organizations, including the FBI. Reid stated that when he spoke the FBI, they wanted to make sure that the mafia wasn't being glorified. Reid said that it wasn't his intention to glorify 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 people didn't misinterpret his intentions when making the movie.[16]


Even though the screenplay for the movie was adapted from Rick Porrello's book, Porrello "had minimum involvement" in writing the screenplay. The majority of the screenplay was written by Jonathan Hensleigh. Hensleigh regularly contacted Porrello, and they both agreed that they wouldn't use the real names of anyone that was still alive. Porrello stated that he was concerned "out of respect and sensitivity towards these people". Porrello also took into consideration that many of the organized-crime figures (portrayed in the movie), still had family members that were alive and well.[18]


Tommy Reid began to accept the possibility that his movie was never going to be made, so he decided to make a documentary about Danny Greene called ‘Danny Greene: the Rise and Fall of the Irishman’. The documentary came out partly because of the trials and tribulations of not being able to successfully make a movie. Reid became so specialized in the Northern Ohio crime scene and Danny Greene’s life that he had to do something about it.[17] Reid stated that he thought “at least I can go to my grave saying I tried, and at least I made this documentary”.[12]

Then one day in 2009, with 17 hours of the documentary shot, Reid received news that the movie had finally been green-light. He then joined forces with production company ‘Code Entertainment’, and managed to get the movie off the ground. They started by finding a “bankable” director (Jonathan Hensleigh) to sign on to the project; then they were able to attach actors Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken to the project.[12]

After Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken signed onto the project, the cast began to fill-up with well-known actors – most notably, Vincent D’Onofrio (known for Full Metal Jacket), Paul Sorvino (who portrayed Paul Vario in Goodfellas), and Irish actor Ray Stevenson who agreed to play Danny Greene.[19] Ray Stevenson was filming The Book of Eli when he got a phone call from writer and director Jonathan Hensleigh. They arranged to have a meeting when Stevenson was back in Los Angeles. When the meeting finally took place, Stevenson was drawn to the script and immediately made a deal. Stevenson stated that Jonathan Hensleigh's script was "the biggest draw ever (to the movie)".[20]



Kill the Irishman entered production in 2009 and the budget for the movie was $12 million. The movie was shot within seven weeks, mostly in and around Detroit. The reason for shooting the movie in Detroit was partly because the city gave tax credits that Cleveland would not match.[11] Detroit also resembled more of what Cleveland looked like in the 1970s. Actor Ray Stevenson stated that Cleveland "has prettied itself up" and that they "wanted to shoot here (in Cleveland)", but the city no longer looked the same. Stevenson went on to say that Detroit is still "on its knees", and that the city resembles more of the economic struggles that plagued Cleveland during the 1970s.[17]

Crime-related incidences[edit]

There were a number of incidences that occurred during the filming of the movie. During filming, one of the trucks used in the movie ended up with seven bullet holes in its side. Ray Stevenson said that "Detroit is a dangerous place" and that you've "just got to roll with it".[20]

When the cast and crew were driving back and forth from the set, a pedestrian was shot in the neck outside a supermarket at night. The ambulance took 35–45 minutes to arrive, and ended up waiting another 35–45 minutes for the police to arrive. The paramedics refused to take the victim to hospital without a police escort. Stevenson stated that the area was a "known gang area" and that "if it's a gang member they're trying to resuscitate", then there is a good chance that the rival gang would "start taking pot-shots at the ambulance.[20]



Danny Greene's car is blown up during an assassination attempt on his life. This is one of many explosions in the movie which the production crew had only 'one-shot' at getting right.[20]

Due to the films’ limited budget, some of the effects (used in the movie) could not be replicated. Stevenson stated that everyone “had to be on point”, and that if there were any mistakes, they “couldn’t reset and go again”. Before filming the effects, the production crew and the actors “checked and re-checked” everything on the set as much as possible. Stevenson stated that everyone “had to be extremely focused” because not only didn’t they have the money to keep re-enacting the effects, but they didn’t have the time either. The movie was shot within 7 weeks, and Stevenson stated that “it (the movie) looks like a $30 million movie”, “which is a testament to everybody involved”.[20]

The final scene, in which the vehicle parked next to Danny's car is blown up (and he is ultimately killed), couldn't be re-filmed. Producer Tommy Reid stated that they only had one-shot at doing that scene because they couldn't afford to do it twice. Reid stated "We couldn’t afford to do it twice, so when the bomb blew up the car, there was only one shot to do it".[12]


During the scene in which a police car is blown up with two officers inside, writer Rick Porrello (whose book was the basis for the movie) had second thoughts about it being included in the movie. Porrello felt uncomfortable approaching Jonathan Hensleigh about the scene, but he did anyway. Porrello stated that he "really felt like" he had to say something and that "if you are going to kill a cop", it is "going to change the tone of the story". Porrello was unsure (at the time) whether the scene was kept in the movie or not, but it was anyway.[18]


The soundtrack for the movie includes 26 songs in total.[21] The list below includes the names of the songs and the artists who performed them.

  1. I'm Gonna Keep On Loving You - Kool Blues
  2. Crazy Little Notion - The Two Guys
  3. All I Want Is You - Leroy Osbourne
  4. I Like The Way You Look At Me - The Pentagons
  5. Wrong Or Right He's My Baby - Helene Smith
  6. How About You - Steven Lang, Jamie Dunlap & Scott Nickoley
  7. Meet Me For A Martini - Daniel May
  8. Paddy On The Landfill - The Irish Experience
  9. Courting Clarinets - Stefan Maciejewsk
  10. Heart Of Gold - Norman Chandler
  11. This is It - Lewis Lamedica
  12. Get In A Hurry - Eugene Blacknell
  13. You're A Prisoner - Death
  14. Broadway Shing-A-Ling - Soul Blenders
  15. Daffy Dotty Day - Lake Smash
  16. I'm Running Out Of Time - Gary Michael Allen
  17. Cielo E Mar - Paul Pritchard
  18. Sulla Riviera - Bruno Bertoli
  19. Eternal Father For - Michael Hankinson
  20. Your Smiling Face - Norman Chandler
  21. It's Not Too Late - Christopher Blue
  22. Drive Drive Drive - Pat Cusick
  23. Like A Moth Into A Flame - The Automatics
  24. Don't Worry Tracy - Christopher Blue
  25. Bonny Portmore - The Rogues
  26. Seaport Lane - Athena Tergis

Release and reception[edit]


‘Kill the Irishman’ premiered on March 11, 2011 in New York City at the ‘Landmark Sunshine Cinema’. Most of the cast was in attendance at the premiere in New York, including Ray Stevenson and Vincent D’Onofrio.[22][23] The movie also premiered simultaneously in Los Angeles and Cleveland before expanding to Detroit, Chicago and Boston on March 18.[24]

Box office[edit]

Even though the movie was generally well received, it was a box office disappointment. The film grossed $1,188,194 at the domestic box office (against a budget of $12 million) and $2,435,527 in domestic DVD sales.[25]

Critical reception[edit]

‘Kill the Irishman’ received mixed-positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% of critics gave the movie a positive review. The movie has a rating of 5.6 out of 10.[26] Mike LaSalle of the 'San Francisco Chronicle' stated that “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”.[27]

Marshall Fine of the Huffington Post gave the film a mixed review. He criticized the movie for jumping through different events in a "jerky fashion", but summed up the movie on a positive note by saying that Kill the Irishman is 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".[28]

The movie has a rating of 7.2 out of 10 on IMDB. The rating is based on the votes of over 31,000 IMDB users. The Majority of the users gave Kill The Irishman a rating of 7 out of 10.[29][30]

Historical inaccuracy[edit]

The death of Alex "Shondor" Birns[edit]

‘Kill the Irishman’ contains many historical inaccuracies. This has been noted by many critics, with one stating that the main problem with the movie was that it seemed “all too willing to sacrifice historical accuracy in the name of an easy-to-digest narrative”.[31] 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 never any evidence to link Greene to his murder.[32] Even though it is commonly speculated that Greene killed Birns, his murder remains ‘officially’ unsolved.[33]

Many of the dates given in the movie are also inaccurate. An example is with the murder of Shondor Birns. Birns was murdered on March 29, 1975 (in the movie, it's March 8). The movie also misspells the name of the church standing in for St. Malachi (near where Shondor was murdered). In the movie it is spelt "St. Malichy's".[34]

The death of Art Sneperger[edit]

In the movie, Danny’s discovers that his friend (Art Sneperger) is about to become an informant, so he decides to kill him in a botched car bombing. Danny is shown to have Sneperger place a bomb on Mike Frato’s car. Danny then detonates the bomb early (and thus kills Art in the process). In reality, there have been many rumors about Art Sneperger’s death, but his death remains unsolved. Some investigators speculated that radio interference caused the bomb to detonate early, whereas others speculated that Greene killed him after learning he was going to become an informant.[35]

Home video[edit]

After a limited theatrical release, Kill the Irishman was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on June 14, 2011.[25] As of 2015, the movie has grossed $2,435,527 in domestic DVD sales.[25]


  1. ^ McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on 13 December 2014
  2. ^ "Official Irishman release date through Anchor Bay Films is March 11, 2011". Movieset. 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  3. ^ McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on 7 January 2015
  4. ^ "Kill the Irishman", Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  5. ^ Jonathan Hensleigh. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  6. ^ ISBN 1-4391-7174-2, retrieved January 24, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Tatiana Siegel (2009-05-06). "Stevenson, Walken join 'Irishman'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gregg Kilday (2009-05-18). "Slew of actors join 'The Irishman'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-05-25. [dead link]
  9. ^ McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on 5 January 2015
  10. ^ Unknown Government Officials. "RE: CHICAGO LABORERS-PAGES 31-39 (ORGANIZED CRIME AND THE LABOR UNIONS)", Labors, published in 1978. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  11. ^ a b McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on January 25, 2015
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  13. ^ Plain Dealer staff (2011-03-06). "'Kill the Irishman' cast: Real life vs. reel life". Retrieved 2011-03-06. 
  14. ^ Kroll, David (2009-05-26). "Jason Butler Harner". Variety. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  15. ^ Kroll, Justin (2009-06-24). "Robert Davi". Variety. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  16. ^ a b Montague, Joe. "Interview with Film Director Tommy Reid", Riveting Riffs, published September 15, 2013. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  17. ^ a b c Roche, Peter M.. "Producer Tommy Reid talks 'Danny Greene" documentary ", Cleveland Movie Blog, March 23, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  18. ^ a b Alberico, Danielle. "KILL THE IRISHMAN – From Reality, to Book, to Script, to Screen", Script Magazine, published March 7, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  19. ^ McDermott, Mark. "Kill the Irishman – Local filmmaker brings the legend of Danny Greene back to life", Easy Reader, 17 March 2011. Retrieved on January 25, 2015
  20. ^ a b c d e Wheeldon, Matt. "Kill The Irishman: Interview with Lead Actor Ray Stevenson", Good Film Guide, published September 23, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  21. ^ . "Kill the Irishman (2011)", IMDB. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  22. ^ ""Kill The Irishman" New York Premiere - Arrivals ", Pinterest. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  23. ^ Stevenson, Ray. "Kill the Irishman NY premiere", Ray Stevenson's official website, 8 March 2011. Retrieved on 1 January 2015.
  24. ^ Stevenson, Ray. "Kill the Irishman NY premiere", Ray Stevenson's official website, 8 March 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  25. ^ a b c "Kill the Irishman", The Numbers. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  26. ^ "Kill the Irishman", Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  27. ^ LaSalle, Mick, "'Kill the Irishman' review: A grand-scale criminal", SF Gate, published March 24, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  28. ^ Fine, Marshall, "HuffPost Review: Kill the Irishman", Huffington Post, published October 3, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  29. ^ "Kill the Irishman (2011)", IMDB. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  30. ^ "User ratings for 'Kill the Irishman (2011)'", IMDB. Retrieved on January 24, 2015
  31. ^ The 'Stoney' film critic, "The one where Ray Stevenson kills people", The Stoney Film Critic, published April 11, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015.
  32. ^ Campbell, Joseph, "‘Kill the Irishman': Glamorizing ’70s Cleveland underworld?", Media Myth Alert, published March 2, 2011. Retrieved on January 24, 2015.
  33. ^ ’Kill the Irishman’ by Rick Porrello, page 96
  34. ^ O'Connor, Clint. "Danny Greene: Cleveland gangster who inspired 'Kill the Irishman' was a real-life Hollywood archetype", The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 6 March 2011. Retrieved on 1 January 2015.
  35. ^ Plain Dealer Staff, "Bomb Blast Kills Aide of Union Ex-Boss", The Plain Dealer, published November 1, 1971. Retrieved on January 24, 2015


  • To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia (1998) by Rick Porrello

External links[edit]