The Irishman (2019)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Steve Zallian based on the book by Charles Brandt
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, and Jesse Plemons.
The Pitch: “Martin Scorsese wants to do a new gangster movie!”
Tagline: His story changed history.
The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…
On his deathbed in 2003, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a former bodyguard and alleged mob hitman confessed to a killing that if true would resolve a mystery that has remained unsolved for decades. Sheeran’s confessions (of that murder and more) became the basis of I Heard You Paint Houses: The Inside Story of the Mobsters, the Teamsters & the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa by Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Charles Brandt. That book became the inspiration for The Irishman.
The Irishman re-teams Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci, then adds Pacino for good measure. De Niro plays Sheeran who accidentally meets and becomes friends with mobster, Russell Bufalino (Pesci). As the years pass Sheeran works his way into Bufalono’s inner circle because of his willingness to take care of business. Sheeran’s choices take him down a road that leads inevitably to the loss of his family, friends and the betrayal of those he cares about.
The Irishman is getting almost universal praise. It should. Scorsese is in top form and gets the best performances from De Niro and Pacino that we’ve seen in years. Pesci gives his best performance ever. Pesci deserves all of the awards he’ll receive for this role. I was worried that Pacino would be too over the top for his role as Hoffa, but he reined it in and pulled it off.
Now to the two nits, many are picking: 1) The de-aging CGI and 2) the length of The Irishman.
I’ll admit that at first the CGI is distracting. As the film went on it became less so. Scorsese has said that a lot of attention was paid in the de-aging scenes to make sure the main actors (all 70+) moved age appropriately for their scenes. (“Uh, Al, let’s do that again. Remember when you’re getting out of the chair in this scene, you’re 45.”) There were a couple of scenes where the faces look younger but the body movements don’t have the same snap as a younger man. Minor distractions in my opinion, but some folks are complaining big time so your mileage may vary.
The second nit some are picking is the length of The Irishman which clocks in at 3 hours and 29 minutes making it the longest movie Scorsese has directed, and reportedly the longest mainstream film released in decades. I thought the film moved at the right pace. I was never bored. I never checked my watch. It didn’t feel like a three hour plus movie. Again your mileage may vary.
I loved The Irishman.