It was just three months ago when a low-budget yet widely reviewed movie about Cleveland’s 1970s mob scene came out in limited release.
I’m hardly surprised that its time in theaters was so brief.
Update: I’ve now seen Kill the Irishman and it’s not as dreadful as anticipated. Still, the movie meanders without making much of a point, other than to glamorize the Cleveland mob scene of the 1970s and romanticize a violence-prone hood named Danny Greene.
I’ve not seen the movie but have enjoyed reading the reviews, such as the one in the New York Times that called Kill the Irishman “an extravagantly corny ode to the collapse of the Cleveland mafia in the 1970s” that “never misses an opportunity to mythologize the meatheads who populate [the] script.”
The Los Angeles Times review likened Kill the Irishman to “clichéd shards of mob movies that add up to the usual ‘Goodfellas’ knockoff.”
Kill the Irishman is based on the violent life of a Cleveland mob figure, Daniel J. (Danny) Greene, best known for having survived several attempts on his life before falling victim to a deadly car bombing in 1977.
I was in Cleveland then, a young reporter for the city’s morning newspaper, the Plain Dealer. I remember the city’s mob scene as murky, chaotic, and not at all glamorous; its figures — including Greene — were scarcely heroic.
Greene rather struck me as an arrogant, somewhat off-kilter punk.
He was hardly a legendary character possessing the stuff that would attract serious attention beyond Cleveland.
What most rankled me about Kill the Irishman was its exaggerated premise, that there were 36 bombing in the heart of Cleveland in the summer of 1976 as Greene waged a turf war with the local Italian mafia.
The claim is preposterous.
As I’ve noted previously at Media Myth Alert, the figure of 36 bombings appears to have been mistakenly taken from an article published in May 1977 in the Plain Dealer, as a sidebar to the account of the bombing death of John A. Nardi, a mob figure allied with Greene.
The sidebar article said that in all of 1976, there had been 21 bombings in Cleveland and 37 in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and most of its many suburbs. That’s a lot, but nothing as stunning or sustained as 36 bombings in the heart of the city in a single summer. Such a spree would correspond to 12 bombings a month.
That never happened.
Also off-putting is the movie’s clear objective of glamorizing the unglamorous Danny Greene. One reviewer of the Blu-Ray version called Kill the Irishman “a clichéd offering of criminal worship ….” Well said.
So maybe I’ll rent the DVD. Some day.
Recent and related:
- Kill the Irishman: Glamorizing ’70s Cleveland underworld?
- Exaggerating Cleveland as ’70s Belfast on the lake
- Cinematic treatments can solidify media myths
- ‘Follow the money’: A made-up Watergate line
- Commodity markets and Watergate’s most famous made-up line
- ‘Follow the money’: You won’t find that line in the book
- Scoring political points with ‘follow the money,’ that made-up line
- A ‘follow the money’ hat trick
- WaPo on ‘historically faulty’ films: Ignoring ATPM
- Woah, WaPo: Mythmaking in the movies
- Mythmaking on Blu-ray?
- On media myths and the golden age fallacy
- ‘Getting It Wrong’ goes Majic