W. Joseph Campbell

That was quick: Crummy Cleveland mob pic now out on DVD

In Cinematic treatments, Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Furnish the war, Media myths, Spanish-American War on June 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

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.

The film, Kill the Irishman, never much caught on and was released this week in DVD.

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.”

Plain Dealer, October 7, 1977

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.

Sure, Hollywood exaggerates. A lot. But a documentary-esque film ought not to cock a snook at the truth. And there was no such bombing rampage in downtown Cleveland that summer.

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.

WJC

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