Kill the Irishman
|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||$1.19 million|
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 life of Irish-American mobster Danny Greene, and was adapted from the book To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia (1998) by Rick Porrello.
Before entering production, Kill the Irishman had a troubled development stage that lasted over a decade. Production commenced in 2009, with filming taking place in and around Detroit. The film chronicles the rise and fall of Irish-American gangster Danny Greene. Greene worked as a longshoreman in the Cleveland docks, until he was chosen to serve as interim president in 1961. In 1964, 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. After many failed attempts, Greene was assassinated on October 6, 1977; by contract killer Ray Ferritto. His death ultimately lead to the demise of the Cleveland mafia.
Released in the United States on March 11, 2011, Kill the Irishman premiered at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York City. Most of the cast, including Stevenson and D’Onofrio, were in attendance. Shondor Birns' niece was also present at the premiere. The film was met with mixed-positive reviews upon release, but some criticized the purported similarities to Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Kill the Irishman grossed $1,188,194 at the domestic box office, against a production budget of $12 million.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Development
- 4 Pre-production
- 5 Production
- 6 Post-production
- 7 Release
- 8 Soundtrack
- 9 Historical accuracy
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
In 1960, Danny Greene is a union worker at the Cleveland docks. Despite union rules, the workers are exploited by their boss, Jerry. Danny is approached by chronic gambler Art for help. Art owes a substantial amount of money to local gangster John Nardi. 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 Nardi. Jerry double-crosses Danny and tries to kill him; but fails. Danny stands as a candidate for the union's presidency, wins the election, and begins improving the working conditions at the docks. During this time, he marries his girlfriend Joan.
After doing business with Nardi and other Mafioso figures, Danny is arrested by Joe Manditski, on charges of grand larceny and labor racketeering. After paying his lawyers, Danny is left 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 monthly tip-offs. Nardi gets Danny a job as an enforcer for loan shark Alex "Shondor" Birns. Danny and Nardi set up a meeting with Jack Licavoli, 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 for muscle. They visit Mike Frato’s house, and try 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’s car. Mike assumes Danny tried to kill him, so he tries to kill Danny. Mike fails and Danny shoots him. Danny is arrested for killing Mike, but is released on the grounds of self-defense. Danny’s wife then decides to leaves him.
Four years later, Danny sees debt collectors at Mrs O’Keefe’s home. Danny decides to pay her debt; and she gives him her father’s gold crucifix in thanks. Danny then visits Shondor, who agrees to invest money in a restaurant with him. Shondor borrows money from the Gambino's, but the courier is arrested. Shondor tells Danny he owes the mafia $70,000, but because Shondor hired the courier, Danny tells him he should pay back the money. Due to the breakdown in their relationship, Shondor hires a contract killer. After a failed assassination attempt, Danny retaliates by blowing up Shondor with a car bomb.
After the death of mafia boss John Scalish, Nardi and Licavoli are considered for succession. After Nardi is overlooked, Licavoli is appointed boss of the Cleveland mafia. He decides to charge Danny 30% for doing business on his turf. When Danny refuses, Licavoli places a contract on his life. Billy tries to warn Danny, but fails. Danny's house is blown up, but he and his girlfriend escape unharmed. Nardi and Danny decide to become business partners and take over Cleveland together. They start by organizing the deaths of many of Licavoli’s associates. At a meeting in New York, Anthony Salerno offers to help kill Danny. With no other options, 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 and ask Salerno for a loan. After they leave, Salerno tells his associates to kill them. They hire hit-man Ray Ferritto. Nardi is killed in a car explosion, and Billy is killed at the docks. Keith 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 slowly by, and accepts he is about to die. Ferritto detonates a bomb on the car next to Danny's; killing him instantly. In a narration, it is said that Greene's death led to the indictment of multiple high-ranking members of organized crime, and as a result, put an end to mob activity in Cleveland.
- Principal cast
- Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, an Irish-American gangster.
- Vincent D'Onofrio as John Nardi, an Italian-American labour racketeer and Greene's ally.
- Val Kilmer as Joe Manditski, a Cleveland cop who investigates Greene. The character is partly based on former Cleveland Police Chief Edward Kovačić.
- Christopher Walken as Alex "Shondor" Birns, a Jewish-American loanshark.
- Supporting cast
- Linda Cardellini as Joan Madigan, Greene's girlfriend and eventual wife.
- Marcus Thomas as Billy McComber, Greene's best friend and enforcer.
- Vinnie Jones as Keith Ritson, an ex-boxer and Greene's chief enforcer.
- Tony Lo Bianco as Jack Licavoli, Capo and eventual Boss of the Cleveland crime family.
- Paul Sorvino as Anthony Salerno, Boss of the Genovese crime family.
- Fionnula Flanagan as Grace O'Keefe, Greene's elderly Irish neighbor.
- Mike Starr as Leo "Lips" Moceri, an associate of Jack Licavoli's.
- Steve Schirripa as Mike Frato, owner of a garbage disposal business in Cleveland.
- Bob Gunton as Jerry Merke, corrupt president of the local ILA labor union.
- Tony Darrow as Mikey Mendarolo, Frato's associate.
- Jason Butler Harner as Art Sneperger, Greene's friend and a gambling addict.
- Robert Davi as Ray Ferritto, an Italian-American contract killer; hired to kill Greene and Nardi, respectively.
- Cody Christian as Danny Greene; during adolescence.
- Dante Wildern as Billy McComber; during adolescence.
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. The meeting went well, and on March 17, 1998, they signed a deal for the film rights to the book. Getting Kill the Irishman produced was difficult. Reid frequently left deals unconcluded, and discovered that the script he’d commissioned was attached to a cover with another screenwriter and producer’s name listed. According to Reid, this was a common occurrence in Hollywood, and he spent over $1,000,000 to ensure the film was made.
Reid was fan of mafia movies (including The Godfather and Goodfellas) and 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 believed that New York, Chicago and Boston were the "three meccas of mafia crime". There wasn't much documentation about Greene, but Reid remembered the story he had been told. After hearing that Porrello was about to publish a book on Greene and the mafia in Cleveland, Reid was inspired to make a movie about Greene’s life.
Prior to making Kill the Irishman, Reid did research on Greene's life and organized crime in Cleveland. He spoke with Sister Barbara Eppich, a nun, who helped raise Greene during his childhood. Sister Eppich told Reid of how Greene was abandoned during childhood and was raised by his grandfather. Because his grandfather worked nights, Greene was left to walk the streets. He would go to school dirty on a regular basis, so Sister Eppich would have to wash him. She also stated that Greene would sleep all the time, but was a "phenomenal athlete".
Reid spoke to number of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The FBI wanted to make sure that Reid wasn't glorifying the mafia. Reid stated he had no intentions of glorifying crime, and that "the whole message at the end of the movie is that crime doesn’t pay". On a similar subject, Hensleigh also said the "film [doesn't suggest Greene] was a hero". However, he did note the film provides a balanced perspective.
While researching his role, Stevenson looked at TV footage of Greene, and read Porello's book; To Kill The Irishman. According to Stevenson, there was "quite a bit" of research material available. D'Onofrio, on the other hand, had the opposite experience. Information on Nardi was scarce, so Hensleigh allowed D'Onofrio to improvise on the character.
Although the film's screenplay was adapted from Porrello's book, Porrello had "minimum involvement" in its writing, most of which was done 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 them.
Due to the troubled development of Kill the Irishman, Reid decided to make a documentary about Greene's life; known as Danny Greene: the Rise and Fall of the Irishman. Due to the research he had done for the movie, Reid became specialized in the Northern Ohio crime scene and Greene’s life. Reid felt that by doing the documentary, at least he could go to his "grave 'saying I tried'". In 2009, with 17 hours of the documentary shot, Reid was told his film had been green-lit. He joined forces with production company Code Entertainment and engaged with a "reliable" director; Jonathan Hensleigh. They then signed actors Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken to the project. This was followed by the signing of actors Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), and Irish actor Ray Stevenson, respectively. 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]".
On May 19, 2009, the film entered principal photography. It was shot within seven weeks, mostly in and around Detroit. This was partly because the city gave tax credits that Cleveland would not match. According to the 2009 report by the Michigan Film Office, Kill the Irishman received roughly $3 million in subsidies. Michigan’s film rebate pays up to 42 percent of filmmakers’ expenses; for costs incurred while filming in the state. Whereas Ohio offers 25 to 35 percent in subsidies, meaning that if the producers spent the same amount filming in Cleveland, they would have received $500,000 to $1.25 million less in subsidies. On the other hand, Stevenson said that they wanted to film in Cleveland, but the city had "prettied itself up" and changed, whereas Detroit was - in his opinion - still "on its knees".
Two incidents occurred during filming. On the first, seven bullet holes were shot into one of the trucks used during production. Stevenson said, "Detroit is a dangerous place" and that you've "just got to roll with it". On the second, the cast and crew were driving from the set, and a pedestrian was shot in the neck outside a supermarket. 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 hospital without a police escort. According to Stevenson, there was a possibility that rival gangmembers may have shot at the paramedics; for trying to resuscitate the victim.
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's final scene, in which Greene is killed, could not be re-filmed. Reid said they could not afford to film the shot twice.
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 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.
Kill the Irishman received mixed-to-positive reviews from film critics. Giving the film a positive review, Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said; "What makes this film special and memorable is the character of Danny Greene, 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, with an average rating of 5.6 out of 10. Whereas on Metacritic, the film has a score of 50 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews". But despite the mixed-positive reception, a number of critics have called the movie a ripoff of Goodfellas. Robert Abele, of the LA Times, said "the film plays like an explosion's aftermath; shards of mob movies that add up to the usual Goodfellas knockoff". Scott Tobias had similar views; saying that "the biggest problem" with the film "isn’t that it rips off Goodfellas", but because plenty of "good films" have "ripped it off well". In regards to the controversy surrounding Kill the Irishman and its purported similarities to Goodfellas, critic Dave Van Houwelingen said:
"There are certain movies that serve as a standard bearer for a genre – a high water mark that filmmakers always try to hit, but seem to always come up short. To me, I think Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas is that type of film for the gangster genre. In the 21 years since the film was released, so many filmmakers have tried so hard to copy Goodfellas' success, and so few have gotten even close to capturing the magic that Scorsese did in one of his very best films. The 21 years have been littered with a bunch of pale imitations. To that list, you can add Jonathan Hensleigh’s Kill the Irishman, which wants so desperately to be Goodfellas, and comes up so very, very short."
Box office performance
On its opening day, Kill the Irishman earned $42,925 from five theaters (with an average gross of $8,585 per theater). On its second day, the box office receipts increased by 46 percent; earning $62,446 from five theaters (with an average gross of $12,489 per theater). Then on the third day, the film's box office performance dropped by 36 percent; earning $40,059 from five theaters (with an average gross of $8,012 per theater). The gradual decline in box office receipts continued until the eighth day, where the film's gross sharply increased by 373 percent; earning $36,119 from 21 theaters (with an average gross of $1,720 per theater). The film continued to have periodic fluctuations at the box office. By the end of its box office run, Kill the Irishman grossed a total of $1,188,194 at the domestic box office, against a production budget of $12 million.
After a limited theatrical release, Kill the Irishman was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on June 14, 2011. As of July, 2015, the movie has grossed $2,462,397 in domestic DVD sales.
- 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
- 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 - Amilcare Ponchielli
- 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
Kill the Irishman contains four historical inaccuracies. This has been noted by 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". Shondor Birns was murdered on March 29, 1975, whereas in the film this occurs on March 8. The movie also misspells the name of a nearby parish known as 'St. Malachi's'; in the movie it is spelled 'St. Malichy's'.
The death of Alex "Shondor" Birns
In the movie, 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.
The death of Art Sneperger
In the movie, Greene discovers his friend Art Sneperger is about to become an informant, so he decides to kill him in a car bombing. Greene has Sneperger place a bomb on Mike Frato’s car, and as he's doing it, Greene detonates the bomb early; killing Sneperger in the process. In reality, Greene was questioned by the police, but was never proved to have killed Sneperger.
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