Friday, May 18, 2012

Jonathan Hensleigh's "GoodFellas"

For some reason, I obsess over the screenwriters behind 1998's other big Large-Object-Headed-For-Earth movie Armageddon.  There's five of them: J.J. Abrams, who's gone on to be one of television's brightest producers/directors, and probably damn close to joining the neo-billionaires club if he's not there already.  There's Shane Salerno who appears to have taken most of the Bush Administration off to find himself.  There's Tony Gilroy who seems to be the only one of the lot who's gone on to at least try to do more prestigious work.  There's Robert Roy Pool who seems to have vanished after the apex of Armageddon; probably turned into too big of a control freak on his next project, and the whole thing collapsed on him.

Finally, there's Jonathan Hensleigh, who finally got tired of just doing the comic book-type stuff, so he decided to do a honest-to-God true crime story... even though he still seems to be clinging to the comic book theatrics a bit.  It's 2011's Kill the Irishman, the true story about wannabe mobster Danny Greene, a man so smart he would read just about anything.  A man so masculine he became union leader just by slapping a dude in the face over and over again.  And not just any dude, mind you, but Warden Norton himself!  That's right!  (sidebar: Shawshank is #1 right now, edging out losers like The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Rings 3.  I'm sure this has been accounted for already somewhere else on the web, but for me it merely represents peoples' sincere hopes and wishes that their stay in prison will go as swimmingly as Dufresne's eventually does.)
Where was I?  Oh, right.  Kill the Irishman.  Well, even though it's a production of Overture Films: a Starz! company, and most of the cast seemed to be plucked right out of every movie showing on Starz! this month, I was nonetheless entertained.  I don't know why everyone else is hatin' on this film so much.  Sure, the 60s and the 70s are overexposed in cinema these days, and sure, the mob genre's been done to death at this point.  But this may be the closest Ray Stevenson gets to a once-in-a-lifetime role, and the guy does take on a gaggle of Hell's Angels.  They're behind a wall of doors just like the Bumpuses in It Runs in the Family (1994).
Sadly, Danny finds that his punch-first-ask-questions-later philosophy of life doesn't open all doors for him.  I thought the most poignant sequence was when... I can't remember the whole context now, but Danny survives one particularly big brush with the bigwigs... no, I think it's the part where Nardi swears he will be his partner by killing the kid in the trunk of his car, and we cut to 1977 and Danny's still on the streets in his Levi's jacket, just before Nardi himself gets taken out by the mob.  Life just got too expensive, and he wasn't able to save enough to join the big leagues, or perhaps he was hoping the big leagues would come to him.
Either way, the movie not only has comic-book roots, it bends the truth a li'l bit.  Never forget that Danny was skimming union dues for his own personal gain.  The movie kinda whitewashes over that.  And according to a documentary about Greene, Sneperger was killed because he ratted to the cops, not because of "gambling debts."  Or maybe that was just code for "ratted to the cops."  Okay, never mind.
A few more observations: the explosions.  There were several explosions in this movie.  While I applaud the CGI people, as it would seem that CGI explosions and CGI fire have come a long way, I can nevertheless spot the digital "strings," so to speak.  We need to solve global warming, if for no other reason than to let Hollywood set off actual explosions again.  The last gripe I can think of: we all love Christopher Walken for various reasons, especially for his performance in 1995's Wild Side... but please!  Too much cowbell, Ronald!  Whatever fragile illusion or spell the film was casting, it vaporized when Chris appeared.  I'm sorry, but it did.  I'm just sayin'.
Epilogue: the film informs us that, well... you thought Cleveland went to hell while Greene was alive.  Apparently, Greene was the glue holding the city together.  Things went to hell some more after he was finally, officially killed.  (Damn you, Robert Davi!!!)  In a profession like Greene's, sometimes that's all you can hope for, legacy wise.  He passes on the cross given to him by the old woman to the next generation... but doesn't get all emotional over it, if you know what I mean.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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