America loves the tough guy. The guy who faces the impossible odds and beats them to a bloody pulp. Examples - Rocky, Dirty Harry or Dalton ("Road House"). America also loves the bad guy. The guy that we really shouldn't support but we do anyhow. Examples - The Godfather, Scarface and Henry Hill ("Goodfellas"). In "Kill the Irishman" we are now given a new underdog, bad guy to cheer for, Danny Greene (played by Ray Stevenson). All-American tough guy.
In Jonathan Hensleigh's latest movie based on Danny Greene's life in the 1970s, we see the tough guy who works his way up from the docks in Cleveland, Ohio. Greene has it rough from the beginning, an orphan raised on Cleveland's mean streets. He takes a job on the docks shoveling grain and is soon given the opportunity to become a union leader because he is one of the only guys that reads books. So, he is also a tough guy with some intellect. He literally fights his way into his position of Union Boss. From there he leads a corrupt life assisting the local Italian mafia in robbing the docks where he works.
Does this sound like any kind of movie hero? Why are we intrigued to continue watching? Maybe it's because some of us (mainly us guys) secretly want to be Greene. The guy that doesn't take nonsense from anyone. If someone gets in your way, break his jaw, beat him down and don't worry about consequences.
Things are going well for Greene until his arrest; his bad deeds finally catch up to him. He cuts a deal with the FBI to become an informant and is back home with his wife and kids. He now needs to find work. He soon becomes a debt collector for Shondor Birns (played by Christopher Walken). Although Greene is Irish and Birns is Italian they don't let that stand in the way of their friendship, especially since there is money to be made.
Again things are going well for Greene, he patrols Cleveland with his crew collecting past due balances for the mafia. Being a tough guy he usually lets his fist or hand gun do the talking. Things soon go south for Greene and Birns due to a lost $70,000. Immediately there is a price on Greene's head.
In 1976 there were 36 explosions that rocked Cleveland therefore dubbing it as Bomb City, USA. This is all due in part to the Italian mob trying to kill the Irishman, Greene. He dodges bullets like Superman and survives explosions like John McClain ("Die Hard") then walks away with an indifferent attitude.
How does he survive all of these assassination attempts? He is an Irish Catholic with the grace of God. Greene doesn't show fear; he keeps himself believing his intent is to be a modern day Robin Hood for the community. Even after losing his children and wife, he sticks it out because tough guys never give up. Especially Irish Catholic tough guys.
Should you see this movie? Sure, if you like tough guys and if you like cheering for the bad guy. Greene's take-no-guff attitude kept his character interesting when the story seemed to lag or when there weren't any cars blowing up. He is supported by a cast of strong veterans, Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio and Paul Sorvino. The film also has an authentic documentary feel to it since Hensleigh incorporates actual footage from newscasts covering Greene's life as a local legend.