Ray Stevenson played the Punisher a couple of years ago, the Marvel comic creation who runs in guns blazing, shooting up entire buildings full of people, and even blows someone up with a rocket launcher. In comparison, Danny Greene has a pair twice that size, and the fact that Stevenson looks almost exactly like the Cleveland mobster simply makes him more intimidating.
The Cleveland area was rocked by high-end crime in the mid to late ’70s, Danny Greene in on a lot of it as he ascends the ranks from dock worker to union boss and then gangster. Kill the Irishman focuses on his reign, tackling Italian mafia almost on his own. He would become a folk hero in a way, dodging death more often than the proverbial nine lives allow, the film even opening on one of the assassination attempts. There’s a lot of material in a short amount of time, so opening with a car bomb sets the tone.
Director Johnathan Hensleigh is granted a stellar cast, from bit players to names worthy of their position on the cover art. It’s a lot to take in, Irishman a crowded, sometimes bumbling film that intertwines a number of narrative points across many years. Mob bosses come, mob bosses go, and everyone in-between seems to end up lost in the shuffle.
With Stevenson at the helm, it holds Irishman together. He carries a presence, and even with some nominal scenes such as a scuffle with a local biker gang, it feels like there’s a purpose. Irishman has flair, again thanks to that cast, making those smaller, unnecessary moments matter.
The film was obviously budget strained, another one of those irritating knocks that brings down the entire piece. Car explosions are carry no natural grace, the CG flames and debris hardly convincing, a shame for a film aiming for a realistic spin on this famous turf war. Detroit also stands in for Cleveland, almost disrespectful to Greene’s legacy in his hometown.
Irishman was captured with the Sony CineAlta F23, the digital footage taking the majority while some stock footage from actual local newscasts is spliced in for effect. Certain digital shots are also aged to bring Stevenson into the era of low-end tape. The mix doesn’t always fit, the smooth movement and clarity afforded by the digital making little sense when trying for a period piece.
Even the desaturated color, aiming for shades of brown, yellow, and reds, doesn’t always make for a convincing ’70s environment. Aside from aesthetics, visuals are relatively pleasing to the eye, a light glaze of digital noise actually giving the piece a bit of texture where it would otherwise be lacking. Rarely does it become intrusive on the image.
One of the more grating examples of digital smoothing, Irishman attempts to make Stevenson younger as he takes over a dock operation merely by digitally softening his face. It’s utterly bizarre to see natural, clean facial texture on his cheeks, and all of that disappear right underneath his eyes. The younger female cast, especially Linda Cardellini, undergoes the same digital surgery treatment, and the effect is nothing short of distracting. When left untouched, definition remains inconsistent if pleasing when visible.
Black levels establish their presence early, keeping a firm grasp on the material as it moves to the interior of seedy bars or homes at night. Unlike the color, black levels are not faded for effect, aided by a vivid use of contrast that likewise ensures no detail is lost in the battle for visual clout.
No doubt Danny Greene punched hard, but if the bass on this disc is any indicator as to his brute strength, cruise missiles hit with less impact. Fights are accentuated with a staggering level of low-end support, the first one at 14:20 packing enough of a wallop that someone could be standing behind the boom mic firing a shotgun with each blow. It’s a bit much, sure, but it fits into this larger-than-life tale, and gives Greene a presence even when the visuals falter.
Car explosions prove prevalent, and raise the level of sheer force pushed from this TrueHD mix by Richter scale proportions. Each blast generates sufficient force, even more so than those punches. Debris lightly peppers the soundfield without too much aggression; a bit of a kick here would have been appreciated. The track otherwise handles passing vehicles marvelously, muscle cars panning to the sides effortlessly, and it even splits the dialogue from time to time.
There’s only one extra on the disc, but it’s an enlightening hour long look at Danny Greene’s life and the effects of his death on the mafia. Even if you don’t care for the film, the documentary is worth a look.
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