Thursday Trailer Face-Off, Special St. Patrick’s Day Edition!: White Irish Drinkers vs. Kill the Irishman

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Published March 17, 2011

 

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast acritical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them againsteach other across a variety of categories to determine which is mostdeserving of your two hours. This week, a very special St. Patrick’s Day edition of the face-off: White Irish Drinkers vs. Kill the Irishman, two movies set in the 1970s about American people of Irish descent, living dangerously.

 

PremiseWhite Irish Drinkers is set in Brooklyn in 1975, where 18-year-old Brian Leary spends his time pulling petty crimes with his older, ne’er-do-well brother, Danny—but in secret, he makes pretty watercolor paintings. When Danny wants Brian to do a much bigger heist with him, Brian is hesitant. Will he do it? We’ll have to watch and find out! Kill the Irishman, on the other hand, is based on the true story of Danny Greene, an Irish guy who falls in with a group of Italian mobsters in Cleveland (also in the ’70s!)—and then falls out with them. When he strikes it out on his own, he angers the lot of ’em, and ends up with a $25,000 bounty on his head. Will he make it out alive? Who knows! There’s a lot of similarity between these two premises, but we’ve got to give it to Kill the Irishman on the grounds that (as EW points out) White Irish Drinkers sounds just like a Brooklyn riff on Ben Affleck’s The Town. Plus, there’s the true-story factor with Kill the Irishman, and also the fact that White Irish Drinkers may have the worst tagline ever: “Blood is thicker than Brooklyn.” What does that even mean? Advantage: Kill the Irishman

Star PowerWhite Irish Drinkers is a festival film, and its cast is largely unknown, save for Indiana Jones‘ Karen Allen. Kill the Irishman features a wonderfully odd array of people we know and love: Christopher Walken! Linda Cardellini! Vincent D’Onofrio? Val Kilmer? Sure! We don’t know much about its star, Ray Stevenson, who’s also in Thor this year, but we trust any man who can grow a mustache that lush just for a part. Kill the Irishman also gets bonus points for involving someone named Fionnula Flanagan—we literally cannot think of a name more Irish than that, and you can’t either. Advantage: Kill the Irishman

Elapsed Time Before Someone Mentions Being IrishThe very first scene in White Irish Drinkers trailer is an Irish joke. “What do you call an Irish seven-course meal?” one brother asks the other. “A six-pack and a potato,” he responds. They should have this one locked down—except that Kill the Irishman‘s trailer does the same thing! “I’m an Irish Catholic with the grace of God on my shoulder,” Danny Greene tells a reporter in the first scene. In both trailers, the word “Irish” pops up within the first ten seconds; they both win. Advantage: Draw

Action“We’ve shot him, we’ve blown him up—he just won’t die!” one of the mobsters exclaims in Kill the Irishman, and we get plenty of evidence; the first punch comes at around 0:38, and then there are explosions, a thrown chair, some shootings, a binding and gagging or two, a handful more punches (so to speak), and a particularly brutal-looking thwack with a golf club. While there are certainly some suggestions of violence in White Irish Drinkers‘ trailer (Danny Leary has a black eye at 1:03; there are some bloody knuckles at 1:11), and there’s a fistfight at 1:30, generally it seems more like a movie about being a loyal family member (and a secret artist?) than an explosion-filled romp in the city. Advantage: Kill the Irishman

Recruitment TechniqueWhite Irish Drinkers‘ trailer emphasizes the family thing: “Two Brothers, One Neighborhood,” read the title cards. The brothers laugh, they wrestle, they tell jokes—and then one embarks on a life of crime, and the other has no choice but to follow. In Kill the Irishman, the narrator informs us that “Danny Greene wanted the American dream…” (cut to a pretty suburban home) “…so he took it.” We don’t totally understand the logic here—why does an Irish guy join the Italian mob, exactly, if all he wanted was a white picket fence? Couldn’t he just sell insurance or something? Advantage: White Irish Drinkers

DirectorWhite Irish Drinkers was written and directed by John Gray, who has a rather delicious résumé that includes creating the Jennifer Love Hewitt show Ghost Whisperer and writing or directing some TV movies with names like Sleep, Baby, Sleep and When He’s Not a Stranger. (“Not Every Rapist Is,” the DVD cover helpfully points out.) This seems to be quite a departure for him! Jonathan Hensleigh, of Kill the Irishman, has only directed two features before this—The Punisher and a straight-to-video horror joint called Welcome to the Jungle—but it bears mentioning that he wrote Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Armageddon, and Jumanji. That’s a trifecta you have to respect. Advantage: Kill the Irishman

The VerdictAs much as we want to see a Lifetime-movie spin on The Town, Kill the Irishman wins this hands-down. The kitsch appeal of its ’70s Cleveland setting, the presence of Christopher Walken, the voyeuristic appeal of its true-life inspiration, that fantastic mustache—it all just works. Erin go bragh! Winner: Kill the Irishman