Take the cast and story of “Goodfellas,” switch their ethnicity from Italian to Irish, and plop them down nearly 500 miles away in Cleveland and you get the gist of “Kill the Irishman.” With actors who all look like they just downed a six pack of Guiness’ and cinematography reminiscent of a sun-damaged photo sitting on your grandma’s piano, this wannabe Irish flick barely scraps together the necessary parts to tell a somewhat enjoyable movie.
This film would immediately be perceived a dud if it weren’t for those five magic words: “Based on a true story.” Two-time “Thor” supplement Ray Stevenson plays Danny Greene, the real-life Ohio gangster who fell into bad favor with mafiosos and earned a valuable reputation as a man that was impossible to kill. Wearing a leather jacket that likely smells a mix of Hennessy and Hepatitis, Danny fashions himself as a family man despite his downfall from union laborer to criminal goon.
“Kill the Irishman” satisfies the most basic impulses of mafia movies. We get a rush from watching botched hits and car bombs, and are tantalized by the intrigue of so-called good cops whose badges are often soaked in blood. But the movie fails to metastasize into something more coherent or meaningful, never quite evolving beyond “The Godfather” but with whiskey instead of wine.
Christopher Walken plays Shondor Birns, a caricature of every past mafia character he’s ever taken on, Vincent D’onfronio is his typical manic self as assisting goon John Nardi, and Linda Cardellini is in standard suburban form as typical housewife Joan who learns to loathe her husband. Val Kilmer plays a cop and you know what, he’s pretty decent so let’s let him have this. The movie feels long but doesn’t drag its feet. Instead, it hops along at a simple jogging pace, avoiding the racing thrill of the epic crime sagas and the slow walk of drama needed to sustain them.