The Irishman Review
by E. McDonnell
**** 4 Stars
“Overall, this is a great film and a homage back to the golden age of gangster movies.”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Plot Synopsis: In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran gets involved with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa — a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.
For film fans, The Irishman is the perfect mix of everything you could ever want from a movie: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in a movie set in Scorsese’s trademark world of gangsters in a beloved 50s/60s/70s New York that has been reminisced about in film since time began. And then there are those who say The Irishman is just another gangster movie, a rerun of Goodfellas and The Godfather; that the star actors will simply be playing the same parts we have already seen them in and that the run-time of 3 and a half hours is just too long.
However, this movie is like nothing you’ve ever seen before – it is set in a world that most know nothing about and yet feels so familiar to many, producing a vintage, retro and classic story that so many love but with a twist. The first act feels like a Goodfellas backstory montage through the eyes of a new character in a new, but familiar, world. The second act then becomes something else, more political and intertwined with history, exploring the sceptical past of politicians and mafia. The third act then ramps up the tension exploring loyalty and friendship and guilt – the chase to save a friend with a bounty on his head, despite being loyal to the gang that gave him his life.
The final act is then completely unexpected – with the events of the film seemingly finished, there is than a 30 minute section beautifully orchestrated and including some of the best performances of the film exploring the meaning of life and coming to the realisation that death may not be so far away. We watch De Niro’s character Frank slowly lose his friends and family, as well as watching his body slowly deteriorate faster than his mind can handle, as he tries to mend the bonds that he has broken in his life. The performance is exceptional and is heart-breaking for the audience. It could be said that this is an emotional roller-coaster for the audience as the 3 hours and 30 minutes go so quickly and truly immerse you in this world.
The beauty of Netflix is that you can stop it and watch it in parts, meaning you do not need to dedicate all that time in one evening and the film is so immersive that it only takes a minute to jump straight back into the action. The star actors De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci give some of the best performances of their careers- portraying characters that haven’t been seen before – De Niro’s loyal and broken hit-man, Pesci’s ‘out of retirement’ calm and calculated mafia leader (a world away from Goodfellas) and Al Pacino’s arrogant, stubborn and likeable charisma. These actors demand respect and even Scorsese (at a mere 77 years old) is still a master of film-making with a beautiful blend of music, editing (hilarious text showing how the characters meet their end) and real footage that adds to the vintage authenticity.
Another notable aspect is the non-linear story-line that is very cleverly narrated by an old Robert De Niro and keeps the 3 hour running time fresh and new. The ‘de-ageing’ technology is so good, you don’t even notice it as it is so well applied. Overall, this is a great film and a homage back to the golden age of gangster movies. With fresh new styles, special effects and the bringing together of the perfect team of artists, this film proves that age is not a barrier, and that as long as Scorsese makes movies, we’ll be in for a treat every time. If this film is not nominated for an Oscar in at least one category, I’m pretty sure there will be a boycott!
The Irishman is currently available on Netflix and was rated 15 by the BBFC.