Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kill the Irishman

Alternate Title:  More Reasons to Avoid Cleveland

One sentence synopsis:  An Irish gangster moves up the ranks of organized crime while waging war on rival Mafiosos.

Things Havoc liked:    There is a certain cast one rather automatically turns to when it comes time to make a gangster movie. Some of them are occasionally in other films, but not most. They play almost exclusively gangsters, and they are so good at these typecast roles that they could do so with their eyes closed. This movie has almost all of them.

Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, Vinnie Jones, Tony Lo Bianco, Bob Gunton, I love watching all these guys. They could do this movie in their sleep, and it's a lot of fun watching them do it. Walken acts like he isn't entirely sure what movie he's in, but then it's Walken. He can get away with that. The rest of them play (surprise!) gangsters of various sorts, who shoot and blow up and beat the crap out of one another in all the right ways. I could watch these guys all day...

Things Havoc disliked:   ... and in fact I'd have much preferred to watch them all day instead of the main character.

I loved Ray Stevenson in Rome (then again, I loved everything in Rome). I even liked him in both Punisher Warzone, and King Arthur, both of which were terrible films. But here he was just awful. Not only did I not even recognize him (I had to look up who he was online), but he was stiff and wooden the entire time he was onscreen. Even his Irish accent was terrible (Ray Stevenson is Irish, how the hell is that even possible?!). When he's not overacting (the opening scene, good lord...), he's sounding like a complete prat, assing about spewing thoughtless bullet points and pretending to be some kind of semi-secular saint.

I really shouldn't blame Stevenson for this. He was badass and awesome in Rome, and thus I turn my attention to the writers of this hopeless film. What they think they are doing here is completely beyond me, but there are sections of this movie where I literally cringed. At one point, Stevenson is at a backyard barbeque with his working class buddies, and makes a speech wherein he complains about the fact that there aren't enough vegetables and low cholesterol foods on offer, declares that he is in opposition to the Vietnam war, lambasts deficit spending as something that will destroy the US economy, argues in favor of the Gold Standard, and declares that his friends don't read enough philosophy. He does all this in ten seconds, all in a movie where he is supposed to be a working class guy that is set in 1968! It plays like a shopping list of "good political bullet points" meant to establish his character as a thoughtful and properly liberal guy. Later on he claims that he's a "celtic warrior-prince" from the old days of Ireland, but that he doesn't drink because he respects women too much.

This is a movie about a working class Irish gangster boss from Cleveland, not Saint Patrick. The effect is to make the movie sound completely fake, as though the screenwriters, conscious of the fact that the material wasn't selling itself, decided to "spice up" the fact that we're supposed to like this guy by ad-libbing in everything they imagined "people should like". Not only is it totally out of place, even laughable in a movie supposedly about a hard-boiled gangster who fought a mob war with the Genovesse Family, but it's borderline insulting to the audience. You don't drop the Gold Standard (which I doubt most people even understand) or cholesterol in a throwaway line without any establishment or explanation. And even if the real gangster in question (this movie's based on a real person) was a teetotaler, I need some explanation as to why this Irish Celtic Warrior doesn't drink!

Oh, and whoever keeps putting Vincent D'Onofrio in movies that require him to be a badass (as opposed to simply crazy), should really have his casting license revoked. When not playing Private Pyle, the man has all the on-screen intimidation factor of a bowl of wet noodles. This was true in Law & Order, and it is true here. His voice breaks while trying to threaten people, for god's sake. Nobody could find a better take of that scene? There was no time for ADR?

Final thoughts:   When Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, and everyone else I mentioned initially can't save a movie collectively, you know something went horribly wrong. I blame the screenwriters and the casting director, who twice made me want to leave the theater rather than listen to the claptrap they called dialogue. It's a shame, really, because the movie isn't totally terrible, and has sections, even entire sequences, that are actually fairly well done. This movie came out of nowhere for me, didn't get a wide release, and generally seemed to be slipping in under the radar. Now I know why.

Final Score:  3.5/10

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