The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese, played in select theaters before being released on Netflix. The screenplay, written by Steven Zaillian, is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt. The story is based on the real life Irishman hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who used to work for both Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), President of the Teamsters Union, and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), a top guy in the Mafia. The story chronicles the relationship between these three fellas and suggests the demise of Jimmy Hoffa and why no one has been able to find him.
This movie is typical Scorsese. Long shots, mid-range, and close ups. He shoots the neighborhood as a love letter to where he grew up. He could do it with his eyes closed…The movie moves along at a pace in sync with the story; although, there were a few moments–conversations, rather–which made their point but then kept going. Okay, I got it. Ultimately, the story about Jimmy Hoffa, his relationship to the mob, Kennedy’s election, and eventual demise was enlightening. I didn’t recall much of the story from memory and I didn’t realize how intertwined the Teamsters were with the Kennedy election. (A perfect case for voter ID and and a lesson in don’t bite the hand that feeds you…)
What this movie does offer is an opportunity for Scorsese to use the new aging technology for DeNiro, Pacino, and Pesci as a tool to learn a new way of film-making. There’s a short segment after the film with all four of them sitting around talking about not knowing where to look or move through the scenes because of the multiple aging cameras. Also, how they had to adjust their bodies to reflect the younger ages since they didn’t have physical make-up or anything thing reminding them. It’s super cool to hear Scorsese speak excitedly about learning a fresh approach to film-making.
The movie itself met my expectations of a Scorsese film. It didn’t blow my mind. I knew it was going to be good. What I did find the most engaging was watching Joe Pesci as the Mob Boss Russell Bufalino. Quiet, soft spoken, wise, and thoughtful. It’s the opposite of what I’m used to seeing with him and well, reserved, I guess is a good word, was just what I wanted. Pesci carried the film for me. De Niro played Sheeran and Pacino played Hoffa as expected. They’re great. I know. Satisfying but not mind blowing. I know people are going gaga over Anna Paquin, too. She was okay. Someone else could’ve played that part just as well. No surprises there. I’m not disappointed by the film or the acting, I just didn’t feel like it was the masterpiece I kept hearing about. *As of this writing, The Irishman has won a best picture award. I can think of better ones…*Maybe my standards are just really high considering it’s Scorsese. Also, three and half hours is nothing when you have a good story. If you’re concerned about the length, you’re being a baby. And a liar. You’ve binged watched your favorite shows for longer than three hours. Get over it. Watch the trailer below:
By the way, as I talk about this movie with people, the conversation isn’t about the tangible movie, like, how it was shot, the acting, the blah, blah, blah. The conversation is about the actual story and people trying to remember where they were and what was going on during this period in time. The Teamsters, mafia lore, Jimmy Hoffa, Kennedy, and all that. The fact The Irishman got us talking about the past and the events which shaped our future is why this film is relevant.