Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor
So you say you just don’t know enough about the Cleveland underworld, circa 1970? And then you say you’ve never heard of gangster Danny Greene, but you’d like to learn? Well, here ya go, chaps. Dive into The Irishman, a new screenplay about just such subjects, written by Jonathan Hensleigh and Jeremy Walters. Depicting the rise-and-fall of a real-life criminal, The Irishman does tread on familiar ground, but still has enough going for it to make it worth checking out.
The film opens with a car exploding. Danny Greene climbs out of the smoking wreck, alive but damaged, caught in mid-curse by a freeze-frame. How has it lead to this? Enter the backstory. Mom dies during childbirth. Dad’s a deadbeat. Young Danny is sent to an orphanage, where he grows up, making friends, making enemies, making his way. Before long he’s working on the docks, a witness to corruption and worker exploitation. Shades on On The Waterfront here, without question. In fact, The Irishman is in the mold of many past films, including The Departed, Mean Streets, The General, American Gangster and Goodfellas, films so familiar to us that there’s little new information here, little to surprise or startle us. But that’s ok.
Danny rises to Union boss, but loses the position due to violence and corruption. He retools as a Mafia flunky, then rises up again, to head his own Irish-manned criminal enterprise, partnered with the mob. The screenplay has many of standard scenes: backroom arguments, beatings, killings, a quick slice of life at home with the kids, cops figuring stuff out, more beatings, betrayals, and even the now-cliched montage sequence, ala The Godfather, where it cuts between an old lady at home and people being murdered, no doubt accentuating the extremes, but c’mon, it’s been done to death.
Still, there’s a fascination with criminals, gangsters, no question, and The Irishman does have an interesting story to tell. Oddly, these guy’s preferred method of enemy disposal was the bomb, so the whole second half of the film is people blowing others to bits. In fact, Cleveland became known as “Bomb City, USA,” during this time, thanks to Danny Greene and those who wished him dead. Guess just shooting someone wasn’t dramatic enough.
There’s a good film here if they do it right. They need to go straight for the era, have everything look and feel like the 70’s. The freeze-frame is a good start, but they should also employ split-screen, indeed, anything from that time to give it the quality so many 70’s films had. There’s a bleakness, a graininess, a sadness to many of the best seventies movies, and The Irishman could fit right in.
Sure, there’s not much suspense, sure, we’ve seen people like this over and over in the movies, but still, if they nail the vibe, that cool, shaggy, despairing 70’s vibe, this will be something worth watching.