Failing to Enshrine a Cleveland Folk Hero in "Kill the Irishman"

Ray Stevenson does his best Jack Nicholson impersonation.
Kim Simms
Ray Stevenson does his best Jack Nicholson impersonation.

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Kill the Irishman, opens May 6 at Movies of Delray, 7421 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, and Movies of Lake Worth, 7380 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth. Call 561-638-0020 or 561-968-5626.

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With post-Goodfellas crime-movie tropes dyed for St. Patrick's Day, this Ballad of Danny Greene attempts to enshrine the Irish-American strongman, a real-life folk hero among Mob-lore nerds and Cleveland Teamsters for his Rasputin-like resilience through multiple assassination attempts. Kill the Irishman aims to come out bumping chests in upstart insouciance, hoping to abet Greene's famous bravado. But though director Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) perks up when filming violence, the atmosphere throughout is past-prime, stymieing any strut. Playing Greene from his 20s through the end of his life, 46-year-old Ray Stevenson is older than Greene actually lived to be. The action is set in a weed-eaten-period Cleveland (1960-77), apparently the vacant-lot capital of the world (and recognizably not actually Clevo). In a purely extraneous detective part, Val Kilmer narrates; he's briefly seen at a sparsely extra-ed Slavic festival that, along with some Wop-Mick-Polack ball-busting and an Irish widow off the Warners lot circa 1946, comprises the extent of attempting a feel for the city and its ethnic enclaves. Stevenson squares off against grandfatherly Italian-American character actors and Christopher Walken's Jewish racketeer Shondor Birns, whose claim to have bagged Marilyn Monroe is lifted from the gossipy autobiography of Cleveland-born screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who might've given this material the (low-)life it lacks.

 
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