“The Irishman” reunites legendary director Martin Scorsese with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in a soon-to-be classic gangster epic available now on Netflix.
The film chronicles the life of mob hitman Frank Sheeran (DeNiro). Sheeran, a World War II veteran, starts the film as a meat delivery truck driver. However, his life takes a turn when he meets mobster Russel Bufalino (Pesci).
Bufalino hires him to “paint houses,” i.e., to murder people. Eventually, Sheeran works his way up and comes under the employment of the famous Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). From there, the film unfolds into a tense and tragic look at aging and regret.
With a runtime of 3 hours and 29 minutes, calling “The Irishman” a long movie is an understatement. Furthermore, 80% of the movie is talking. However, the film is never boring. The characters are intriguing and the conversations are riveting.
What really makes this film fly by though are the performances. DeNiro hasn’t been this fantastic for a couple decades. He gives a very lowkey performance, but the amount of emotion he conveys in his eyes alone is astounding.
The supporting cast is out of this world too. Pacino is wonderful as Hoffa. His character isn’t as reserved as the others, giving him a chance to shine. He may overdo it at times, but it’s still his best performance in years. Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin and Stephen Graham also give notable performances.
However, it’s Pesci who steals the movie. In previous collaborations with Scorsese, Pesci always played the hothead. Conversely, in “The Irishman,” he’s very quiet and never loses his cool. Yet he radiates power. One look from him communicates more than a thousand words ever could.
Scorsese’s direction is also worth mentioning. He’s a legend and a veteran of the gangster genre, which this film further cements. However, “The Irishman” isn’t as flashy as his previous films “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” Scorsese relies less on fancy camera moves and more on performances and emotion. He does a great job of injecting tension into what would otherwise be a boring scene. For example, he turned a car ride and a conversation about fish into the most white-knuckled scene of the movie.
One unique choice Scorsese made was to use digital effects to “de-age” the lead actors. The film spans the course of several decades, so the only way to have DeNiro (76) play a 45-year-old was to digitally make him look younger. For the most part, it works very well, but there are definitely a few scenes where the effects look fake and distracting. Also, the de-aging technology only affects the actor’s face and not their movements. It’s quite obvious DeNiro is 76, especially in scenes with a lot of action. However, this doesn’t detract from the film overall.
Even with all the other positives, what really makes “The Irishman” stand out is the third act. The film doesn’t wrap with a huge CGI battle as many do nowadays. It simply punches you in the gut with themes of dealing with consequences and mortality that have been building under the surface. The last shot is truly haunting.
It’s certainly a time commitment, but anyone with Netflix and a free afternoon should check this film out. It is well worth the time.
“The Irishman” – 4.5/5