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Irish Gangster Battles Italian Mob; Mia’s Plain ‘Jane’: Movies

Ray Stevenson in "Kill the Irishman," a film based on a real 1970s mob war between Irish gangster Danny Greene and the Mafia in a northeast Ohio city. Photographer: Kim Simms/Anchor Bay Films via Bloomberg

Orson Welles, George C. Scott, Elizabeth Taylor and William Hurt have appeared in film adaptations. John Houseman and Aldous Huxley wrote one of the screenplays. Mexico, India and Hong Kong have produced their own versions.

“Jane Eyre,” Charlotte Bronte’s timeless 1847 novel about the roller-coaster life of a British orphan, is one of the most-filmed stories in history. Since 1910, when the first silent version was released, there have been at least 18 feature films and nine made-for-TV movies based on Jane’s dark journey through the moors.

The latest version, from director Cary Fukunaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini, is a worthy addition that’s handsomely shot, crisply acted and cleverly constructed.

Using flashbacks to weave together the sprawling story, Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) and Buffini (“Tamara Drewe”) emphasize the book’s dark, brooding undercurrent while maintaining its romantic core.

Mia Wasikowska, an Australian actress who starred in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and played a suicidal teenager on TV’s “In Treatment,” is a perfect plain Jane with her straight parted hair, drab outfits and blunt speech.

Governess, Runaway

She makes believable Jane’s transition from abused child to governess and then runaway before reuniting with her lost love and former employer, Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender), at the gothic mansion where he hides a terrible secret in the attic. The part requires a broad acting range and Wasikowska, in her early 20s, is up to the task.

Sally Hawkins, as Jane’s cruel aunt, and Judi Dench, as Rochester’s kind housekeeper, headline a strong supporting cast that includes Amelia Clarkson as the young Jane and Jamie Bell as the austere clergyman who asks Jane to accompany him to India for missionary work.

This probably won’t be the last “Jane Eyre” movie, but it’s one of the best.

“Jane Eyre,” from Focus Features, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***

‘Kill the Irishman’

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day comes “Kill the Irishman,” based on a real 1970s mob war in Cleveland between Irish gangster Danny Greene and the Mafia.

Jonathan Hensleigh’s film is a grainy, low-rent version of “Goodfellas.” They’re both about a group of hoodlums climbing the ladder of organized crime through extortion, murder and other unsavory acts. Both feature ethnic tensions between Irish and Italian mobsters, narration by one of the main characters and buckets of blood, including the stabbing of a guy trapped in a car trunk.

But “Kill the Irishman” has enough distinctive elements to avoid the blatant copycat label, particularly a gripping performance by Ray Stevenson as Greene, the homegrown brawler who rose to power as a union boss and then became one of the city’s most notorious criminals.

In 1976, during the height of Greene’s war with the Cleveland Mafia, 36 car bombs exploded and body parts were strewn all over the streets. Greene even publicly dared the Mafia to come after him, which turned out to be an unwise move.

“Kill the Irishman” has an all-star lineup of tough guys, including Christopher Walken as a Jewish mobster, Val Kilmer as a sympathetic cop and Vincent D’Onofrio as Greene’s main partner in crime. And just to be sure you don’t miss the “Goodfellas” connection, Paul Sorvino reprises his role as a New York wiseguy.

“Kill the Irishman,” from Anchor Bay Films, is playing in New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland. Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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