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“Goodfellas” or “Casino,” don’t worry: Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh has covered them for you in “Kill the Irishman,” a hope- lessly derivative yet compulsively watchable retread. The true story of an Irish gangster yearning to become part of the Italian mob is initially narrated in flashback from a child’s perspective and follows its lead, a hood who survives a lethal car bomb explosion while oldie tunes boom from the stereo, as he becomes the self-appointed leader of the most powerful union in the Midwest.

“Kill the Irishman” stars Ray Stevenson as the unstoppable Danny Greene, a former long- shoreman and future “Robin Hood of Collingswood” who butts heads with the Mafia and turns Cleveland into “Bomb City, USA.” The devil’s in the details, and

that’s where you’re sure to find any new wrinkles the film has to add to a tried and true genre. There’s a Tarantino-worthy ex- change comparing a Scotsman’s love of haggis to an Irishman’s penchant for potatoes. (Who knew that every city in America plays home to what’s known as a “Theatrical Guild,” a tavern where cops and criminals drink side by side?) And we at last learn the reason Italian hoods call each other by colorful appellations: Be- cause they’re too #%$&ing stupid to remember each other’s names. The cast (all working in peak

form) reads like a Who’s Who of cinematic made men. There’s Tony Lo Bianco (“The French Connection,” “Bloodbrothers”), Mike Star (“Miller’s Crossing,” “Goodfellas”), Paul Sorvino (“Dick Tracy,” “Goodfellas”) and loveable schlub Steve Schirripa (“Casino,” “The Sopranos”). Also popping up in small roles are Christopher Walken, whose fractured and wholly original line readings make anything he’s in worth a look; “Showgirls” tough, pockmarked Robert Davi; and for fans of British noir there’s Vinnie Jones (“Snatch,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”). The one thing “Kill the Irish- man” has over Scorsese is its flair for mingling actual TV news pieces with gunplay, although this is relatively minimal. So much of the low budget film’s special effects went into bombings that there were precious few pennies left to waste on bullets. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for

R-rated, profanity-laced mob mov- ies, and while “Kill the Irishman” will never become a top-shelf attraction, there are enough


Second Stage Theatre. Brought to San Diego by La Jolla Play- house and San Diego Repertory Theatre in association with Van- tage Theatre, this touring produc- tion is conceived, written and performed by Smith and directed by Leonard Foglia. It is even timelier and more moving now than when it was written, accord- ing to La Jolla Playhouse director Christopher Ashley, who goes on to say, “Anna Deavere Smith is a truly mesmerizing performer who artfully addresses serious issues in the community through her work. She once again hits her stride with this award-winning

San Diego Uptown News | April 29–May 12, 2011


ant playing fields on which Hélène maps her strategies. She fantasizes about Ange and Beals engaged in casual play. Spotting a chess set collecting dust on the shelf of one of her regulars, Hélène offers to clean the rooms of agoraphobic Dr. Kröger (Kevin Kline) in exchange for lessons. At first the good doctor is hard pressed to recall his clean- ing woman’s name, but with chess as the great leveler, the two quickly become fast friends and no more. The crusty recluse might not set foot outside his suite, but one thing he does leave is a doomed X-ray in the trash for Hélène and the audience to soon discover. Credit Bottaro for showing restraint by reigning in the pathos and not consummating the relationship. Mastering the game is not enough to boost Hélène’s con- fidence. In order for her to fully reclaim self-esteem she must first enter into a tournament. Not un- like the queen, Hélène is the only female at risk in the competition and the evil chess club president (Daniel Martin) does his best to keep her from cracking the boys’ club. Not only does Hélène make it to the finals, the deciding game pits her against nemesis as chess is quickly reduced to a battle against good and evil. Tucked safely in his hotel room, Kline does his best Yoda by telepathi- cally guiding his charge to near- certain victory.

It was going so well: ter- Sandrine Bonnaire stars as a chambermaid turned chess pro in “Queen to Play” (Photo courtesy Zeithiest Films)

familiar faces and attempts to keep things fresh and moving at a clip fast enough to warrant a $10 ticket.

“Kill the Irishman” opens its

exclusive run at Landmark’s Ken Theatre on April 29.

“Queen to Play” Written and Directed by: Caroline Bot- taro from a novel by Bertina Henrichs Starring: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud and Jennifer Beals

Running Time: 97 min. Rating:HH.5

Caution: Spoilers throughout Fresh out of the gate writer/

director Caroline Bottaro can’t resist buying into a formula. “Queen to Play” tells the story of Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire), a middle-aged chambermaid working at a posh hotel on the isle of Corsica,who recognizes a previously untapped passion for chess while watching an Ameri- can couple engage in a romantic game on their hotel balcony. It has as much to do with wooden

solo show tackling the nation’s health care system.” In The New York Times (Oc- tober 8, 2009), Christopher Ish- erwood wrote that even if you’ve had your fill of heated debate about the health care crisis — “in- formed, opinionated or just plain batty” — you can go without fear to “Let Me Down Easy,” which he calls “continually engaging” and “a vivid compendium of life experienced at its extremes.” Smith’s prior solo shows are

“Fires in the Mirror,” which con- cerns the riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and “Twilight: Los Angeles,” about racial unrest fol- lowing the Rodney King verdict. A recipient of the coveted Ma-

cArthur (Genius Award) Fellow- ship, Smith has been nominated

Staunton chessmen as “Rag- ing Bull” does the Marquess of Queensberry rules. What should have been a subtle portrait of a strong, but somewhat disenchant- ed middle-aged woman’s sudden and unexpected rapture after a liberating brush with intellectual arousal, instead ends in a predict- able sporting match.

Behind a locked hotel door awaits a tonic for Hélène’s humdrum soul. One look at the beautiful couple’s (Dominic Gould and the ageless Jennifer Beals) sensual cross-table match is enough to send Hélène reeling headlong into the arms of her faithful (and somewhat flum- moxed) husband Ange (Francis Renaud). After she presents him with an electronic chessboard, whispered sweet nothings in Ange’s ear are soon replaced by sultry invitations to play pawn to her queen. Even a lacy negligee Hélène “borrowed” from Beals isn’t enough of an enticement to engage the put-upon Ange either in or out of bed. Suddenly, everything she

sees reminds Hélène of chess, and Bottaro skillfully milks just

for the Pulitzer Prize and has received numerous awards for act- ing and playwriting. She appeared in the films “Philadelphia” and “Rachel Getting Married” and has enjoyed recurring television roles, including “The West Wing,” “The Practice,” and “Nurse Jackie.” Be certain to check San Diego

Repertory Theatre’s “surround events” ( for opportunities to hear experts speak on the issues addressed in “Let Me Down Easy.” The show continues through May 15 at the Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown, with perfor- mances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; and 7 p.m. Sundays. $30-$53, www. or (619) 544-1000.u

about every metaphor imaginable. Crumbs on a restaurant tablecloth become pint-sized pieces in a game of skill. Tiled floors morph into gi-

rific performances by the leads, enticing location photography,a compelling relationship drama. Too bad it had to end in such a “Rocky” manner.

“Queen to Play” opens its

exclusive run at Landmark’s Ken Theatre on April 29.u

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