Twenty-one years later and the spawn of Goodfellas continue to proliferate, the latest being Kill the Irishman, a mind-numbingly familiar saga of thuggish tough guys, dapper mafioso, and urban warfare that, despite a based-on-real-life pedigree, proves indistinguishable from its imitative brethren. Writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) mixes actual 1970s Cleveland news reports into his saga of Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson), a no-good kid who grew up to be a no-good union crook and, later still, a no-good loan shark enforcer and organized crime boss, though verité material doesn’t add an ounce of vitality to this stale gangster tale, which trots out period clothing, cars, hairstyles, and music with all the inspiration of a bowl of Cheerios. When not slapping his union boss (Bob Gunton), horrifying his first wife (Linda Cardellini) with bloodletting, or joking around with a cop who looks like he ate Val Kilmer (okay, it really is Val Kilmer), Danny is palling around with hackneyed criminal types (played by, among others, Vincent D’Onofrio).
None of those incidents, however, are quite as laughable as the discussion with his “strong Irish woman” neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan) about his true role as a noble Celtic warrior, a bit of inanely narcissistic gibberish she encourages by uttering the utterly ridiculous: “There’s a bit of good in every Irishman.” That scene is only the most egregious point at which Hensleigh attempts to humanize and lionize Danny, who we’re told didn’t like school but loved to read, distributed free turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas (he was even dubbed “Robin Hood” by locals), and really loved the new blonde girlfriend (Laura Ramsey) who showed him her boobs, which here prompts some imitation porn music to begin playing.
Kill the Irishman apes the work of Scorsese whenever possible (in particular, it enjoys mimicking The Departed‘s Dropkick Murphys Irish-rock cuts), but has none of its spiritual predecessors’ wit, verve, or morally conflicted perspective on its subjects. Rather, it’s just a third-generation rehash of worn-out tropes populated by a who’s-who of genre cinema, from Vinnie Jones and Robert Davi to Goodfellas‘s own Paul Sorvino as a New York Gambino family bigwig.
A final act revels in a 1976 string of 36 gangland bombings while also vainly striving to elicit interest in the survival of uniformly one-dimensional, cretinous characters, culminating with Danny receiving a poem about his greatness from a fallen friend. Crass regurgitation mixed with crasser glorification, however, results only in dull familiarity, which is also the best way to describe the brief appearance of Christopher Walken doing—what else?—his routine Christopher Walken thing.