Director Martin Scorsese has been trying to get his latest foray into gangster fiction, The Irishman, made for some time. After laboring in Development Limbo, he placed it on his production schedule in 2014 and now we have it as a Netflix exclusive, though it had a limited theatrical run.
From a nursing home, former hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) tells his story about how he became a member of the Scranton Mafia in the 1960s after serving under General Patton in World War II.
After his trucking company accuses him of stealing, teamster lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano) gets him off and introduces him to his cousin Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). He starts doing work for Bufalino, who takes a liking to him. He does some theft, intimidation, and it soon escalates to murder. After some time, he is introduced to union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) with whom he becomes close, even his oldest daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin) enjoys spending time with the teamster. The film follows Sheeran’s murderous career, weaving through time with actual events including the Bay of Pigs, the JFK assassination, and the disappearance of Hoffa.
I want to praise the entire cast. De Niro and Pacino were fantastic in their roles. Likewise, though he claimed he was retired, Pesci gave an outstanding performance in his role. It was almost as if he had not retired. He never skipped a beat. I also want to give recognition to Romano. With his comedic career, it often gets lost on how good of an actor he is. He played his part excellently and it was worth applause.
As for the film itself, it had an intriguing topic, the mafia’s connection to Jimmy Hoffa, which covers the bulk of the story. I will not give spoilers, but the movie kind of arrogantly declares what happened to the union president. It was not like other films which offered a sort of artistic, “this is what we think.” This movie was like, “here it is.” *mic drop* This is where the intriguing stuff ends and it falls into mediocrity.
Once again, Scorsese loves to glorify men who steal, intimidate, cheat on their wives, are bad parents, and even commit the most gruesome murders, only to end on a flippant “crimes does not pay” at the climax. It was the same with this movie. “Here’s the hitman, but look how loyal he is to his fellow criminals. Isn’t he great? Oh, by the way, he’s bad.” Do not look for any sort of morality play with this Netflix original.
Also, the movie is so long. It is over three hours and it could have lost an hour of it. There are so many scenes that, while they might pique your interest, ultimately serve no purpose. For instance, interwoven in the film is De Niro and Pesci’s characters taking a long drive to a wedding. It cuts into the story and offers no substance until the final act when it finally interweaves with the main plot.
On the story itself, it is somewhat of a combination of David Mamet’s 1992 film Hoffa and the 2012 thriller The Iceman. However, it lacked the nuisance of Jack Nicholson’s Jimmy Hoffa, while Pacino is great as Hoffa, I felt the writing failed him. It is the same with Sheeran. The film tried to make him seem likable, a trope Michael Shannon avoided while playing hitman Richard Kuklinski. Scorsese was trying to have the best of both worlds, but in my humble opinion, this added to the flaws in the movie.
Bottom line, Scorsese may be a great director, but The Irishman is not a great film. It has dynamite performances and an intriguing topic, which is what kept me watching. However, it falls flat in its portrayal of the characters and its unnecessarily extended runtime.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Very strong language, Strong Violence, Some sexual content
FAVORITE QUOTE: You always charge a guy with a gun! With a knife, you run away.
Check out the trailer below:
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