The Irishman Movie Review
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Lucy Gallina, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Kathrine Narducci, Welker White, Jesse Plemons, Jack Huston, Domenick Lombardozzi, Paul Herman, Louis Cancelmi, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Gary Basaraba, Marin Ireland, India Ennenga, Sebastian Maniscalco, Steven Van Zandt
Oscar Wins: No wins.
Other Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino), Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture
I can’t take full credit for this comment, but nonetheless it remains true: “When I was a kid these guys were old. Now that I’m old, these guys are still old.”
Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and every freaking Italian actor working in Hollywood today, The Irishman is the latest crime thriller directed by Martin Scorsese. It follows Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he recalls his past years working for Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). In what is essentially one large flashback with its own flashbacks, a much older Frank recounts his life of crime, specifically his involvement with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) in 1975.
On the surface, this film is about the intersection of crime and politics. With storylines that span the years between 1949 and 2000, this film covers everything from Castro’s rise in Cuba to the Kennedy assassination to the mob wars of the 1960s and 70s. But at its heart, The Irishman is about age and loss. It’s about sin, regret and remorse (or the lack thereof). It’s clearly Scorsese’s definitive, and maybe even final, statement on the consequences of a life lived in violence.
It’s been 25 years since the bromance that is Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese graced Hollywood. In what’s easily his best performance in years, De Niro excels at playing the closed off Frank Sheeran, a man who seems dull at first, but is just one freaking mystery after another. Frank kills with little to no emotion. A few gunshots to the head and off he goes. After all, he’s just doing a job. In fact, Frank is so detached from what he does that he speaks in euphemisms and metaphors. Murder becomes “painting houses”, “taking someone on vacation” or “taking out the trash”.
The sadness of this movie is not in the murders themselves, but in Frank’s inability or unwillingness to reflect on what he’s done. Even at the end of his life, Frank can’t admit to feeling guilt, sadness or even remorse for murdering dozens of people, including one of his dearest friends, in cold blood. The only emotion we get from Frank is when he’s trying to communicate with his distant daughter, Peggy (Anna Paquin) who, in a near-silent role, pretty much personifies Frank’s conscience. She also helps highlight Frank's real feelings about Bufalino (fear) and Hoffa (adoration).
As for the rest of the cast, Joe Pesci came out of retirement to prove he’s still the king of quiet intimidation. As crime boss Russell Bufalino, Pesci pretty much plays a quieter version of himself, only with more wrinkles and higher pants.
And in what has become his first collaboration with Scorsese, Al Pacino is a joy to watch as Teamster leader, Jimmy Hoffa. In this role, Pacino gets to do what he does best – yell and scream and call people ‘cocksuckers’. These three stars shine so bright in this film that the rest of the cast really falls into the background. It’s not always easy to understand who they are as people or what role they play – and honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Spoiler alert – most of them die, anyway.
Clocking in at just about 3.5 hours long, The Irishman is a commitment, but well worth the watch. Surprisingly, this movie didn’t feel as long as it was, which is shocking since a lot of the movie is actually very quiet. Scorsese really allows these characters to think and scheme on screen, which is not something we see too often in film. This tactic seems to highlight the theory that The Irishman is not about the battle between Hoffa and the mob as much as it's about the struggle of a man accepting his life choices.
In his 60-plus years making movies, Scorsese has killed a lot of characters. Fist fights, mob crimes, gang violence and mental illness have all contributed to the death count…but in The Irishman, he tackles the most vicious killer of all: old age. What role Frank and the Bufalino family had in Hoffa’s disappearance takes a second seat to what happens to these criminal lions in the twilight of their years – lonely, alone and afraid, with only their sins to keep them company.