Plot: A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Released: November 2019
Sprawling over fifty years and involving multiple historical moments, it’s great to see director Martin Scorsese returning to his roots and once again making a film centred on the mob, with The Irishman joining one of the finest filmographies in cinematic history and sitting alongside the likes of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Casino.
Telling the “true” story of mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro), the film takes us on a trip through time as Sheeran rises up through the ranks of the mob from meet delivery driver to a confidant of the infamous teamster Jimmy Hoffa. But as Frank rises the ranks within the mob, his life slowly descends into a spiral of violence and corruption, where the rewards are short-lived and the damage caused soon comes back to haunt all those involved.
The first thing you notice about the film is the massive 209-minute runtime, making it the longest mainstream movie released in over a quarter-century, making it perfect for a streaming service like Netflix, but might have been a more daunting prospect if watched theatrically, but fear not, Scorsese makes every minute of the movie glide by with relative ease and once you’re involved in the story you won’t notice the runtime, helped by his usual style of kinetic editing and masterful pacing that keeps The Irishman thrilling throughout. By the end of the movie, you feel as though you have lived a life along with these characters, changing your opinion on each of them multiple times throughout and eventually you come to fully understand each of their actions.
I wouldn’t be able to fully review the film if I didn’t talk about the wonderful use of de-ageing software that is used on the cast so they’re able to play their characters over multiple decades, which although does a good job of making each of the actors faces look the part in a similar way Samuel L. Jackson was altered for Captain Marvel, the film doesn’t work perfectly as the 76-year old Robert De Niro never convincingly moves like a thirty-year-old would. But with this missteps with the technology, the talented actors work their magic enough that you can forgive them for going down this route rather than hiring different actors to play the characters at different ages.
Adapted by Steven Zaillian from the book “I Heard You Paint Houses”, Scorsese implements his usual gangster style to the screenplay, but unlike his previous work in the gangster genre, The Irishman treats us to the doom and gloom that a life of crime brings, rather than the joyous and party-like atmosphere you see in the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street and Gangs of New York.
Teaming up with Scorsese for their ninth collaboration, De Niro does some of his best work in almost a decade. playing Frank as a closed-off and complicated character with next to no control over his life and the further the story progresses, the better De Niro becomes as his life starts to feel as though it’s on tracks racing towards an inevitable crash.
Opposite him, you have the equally talented, Al Pacino, playing the infamous union boss Jimmy Hoffa, whose life becomes intertwined with Franks in ways neither of them could have imagined. But its Pesci that steal the show in one of his quietest roles to date as mob boss Russell Buffalino, instilling fear throughout with his menacing delivery and charisma, while the rest of the ensemble cast does a great job, with wonderful turns from Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, and Anna Paquin.
Despite its slow pace and issues with the de-ageing software, in the end, it still is a fantastic film. It sets out to do something different, but it doesn’t try to hard to set it apart from the herd. What Scorsese did what he does best and made the exact movie he wanted to make, but more importantly than that, this feels like the last big hurrah for these living legends rather than a flawless masterpiece.