FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “The Irishman,” which stars Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, The Godfather Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Goodfellas), Al Pacino (Scarface, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), Ray Romano (Ice Age, Everybody Loves Raymond [TV series]), Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, The Station Agent), Stephen Graham (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, This Is England), Anna Paquin (X-Men , The Piano), Stephanie Kurtzuba (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Good Wife [TV series]), Kathrine Narducci (Godfather of Harlem [TV series], Bad Education), Jesse Plemons (Black Mass, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie), Domenick Lombardozzi (Bridge of Spies, The Family), Gary Basaraba (Suburbicon, Fried Green Tomatoes), Lucy Gallina (Boardwalk Empire [TV series], Christmas with Holly [TV Movie]), Welker White (Eat Pray Love, Morning Glory), Louis Cancelmi (The Looming Tower [TV series], Billions [TV series]), and Sebastian Maniscalco (Green Book, Tag). It is directed by Martin Scorsese (Hugo, Shutter Island), with the screenplay being written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Moneyball). Based on a novel, a former mob hitman named Frank Sheeran (De Niro) recalls his life in the mob, including his friendship with teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).
It’s the end of an era. Or is it? Really, who can tell what tricks Scorsese has up his sleeves. For people to make assumptions that this is his swan song to the mob scene that he’s encapsulated over his lengthy career is a bold statement. It’s in the man’s blood, what he loves to talk about most. But if in fact this is Scorsese’s final nail in the mobster coffin, I’d say it’s a pretty darn good one. “The Irishman,” a film based on the book “I Heard you Paint Houses,” tells the story of Frank Sheeran and his dealings with the mob and Jimmy Hoffa. Plagued with as much legendary star power as it did production problems, “The Irishman” has been in development for a long time, primarily because no one wanted to pay for its monstrous budget. That is, until Netflix jumped on board. I remember first reading about this movie, some odd two or three years ago. To think it’d actually arrive on our doorsteps (or, in this case, monitors) is a miracle, and everyone was wondering just how it all played out. Particularly, the de-aging process of some of Hollywood’s legends: Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Man, was it a treat just to see Pesci again. Though I never grew up watching his films (aside from “Home Alone”), I knew of the star’s power. He’s hardly done anything in the 2000’s, so to see him in this with Scorsese and De Niro once more is like a fantasy. Sure, he’s got a lot of years on him (kind of sad in a way), but his performance was still solid, and rivaled that of De Niro and Pacino in the best way. All of them brought in their A-game, giving life to these characters that made it enjoyable to sit with them for over three hours. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, the movie was paced out well. I know it’s daunting to see that three hour and thirty-minute runtime, but if you clear out some time (and are actually in the mood for the content) you’ll be pleased. While the story has a lot to tell, it all feels smooth, hardly missing a beat because there is quite a bit to see unfold. Many stars grace the screen to support this powerhouse, including Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, and Sebastian Maniscalco (always a pleasure seeing him in a film). Honestly, the film is a treasure trove of fun content, spaced out with historical content that, while jarring at first (the various text detailing how certain people died), proved to be pretty intriguing. One moment that I found rather touching that was hardly focused on was how Scorsese paid homage to the great Don Rickles, by having someone impersonate the late comic on a stage in a random scene. It’s these little touches that tell me Scorsese had a plan, one that’s been cooking for a long while. You can tell it through the direction and wonderful cinematography. “The Irishman” is a beautiful film to watch, with spectacular production design and amazing shots. The car wash and gun selection sequence were some of my favorite instances of artful composition. Not to mention the few slow-motion shots that were downright brilliant. It’s an entertaining release, through and through, and has a pretty strong character focus that keeps you engaged. While “The Irishman” settles on a specific version of what exactly happened to Hoffa, the movie itself isn’t about making a statement in that regard. To this day, it still hasn’t been determined how Hoffa was killed, or if he died that day at all. The fact that this film shows it is more so a bonus than what is actually the central story: Frank Sheeran, and how, in protecting his family, lost everything. It’s a theme we’ve seen a few times with some fantastic pieces of cinema and television, and while Scorsese doesn’t do too much to make new on what he’s done countless times, “The Irishman” still has a spark that leaves you wanting to know what happens next. Certainly, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you aren’t into the mobster flicks, you won’t like this one; and if you’ve seen several of them, this might be just your other run-of-the-mill genre piece. As for me, I haven’t seen many mobster movies. There might be leniency in my analysis, but I genuinely liked what I saw. Would I say it’s the best I’ve seen? No. It doesn’t scream Best Picture, mainly because of it’s all-too-familiar message and plot devices. That, and it’s perplexing use of time. The de-aging thing didn’t work all too much for me, given how, no matter how much younger they looked in the face, the effects couldn’t mask their old gait and body language. Seeing De Niro beat up a grocery story worker on the street in a wide was rather silly, given how the supposed forty-year-old version of himself looked stiff in his movements. Even outside of the visual effects, the make-up work and changing out of actors made the concept of time more difficult to pin down. Peggy (Paquin, Gallina), Frank’s daughter, shot up in age exponentially (changing out actresses) in only a seemingly seven to ten year time jump. By the time it was the seventies, De Niro already looked like his normal self, calling into question just when the present day takes place for Sheeran in this film (early 2000’s it turned out to be). It’s a bummer that the expectations for these technological advancements were not met with the finished product, but it didn’t completely tarnish the experience of the overall film. If you like mobster flicks and Scorsese, you’ll find “The Irishman” to be a real treat. FINAL SCORE: 89%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: