The Irishman is Martin Scorsese’s feature film directorial return since 2016’s Silence, and he’s come out swinging. Clocking in at 3 hours and 30 minutes, The Irishman is a hulking crime epic based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, and that run time may scare a lot of people away. I know it had me on the fence, but I decided to give it a crack anyway.
The film is a long string of flashbacks, told and narrated by a wheelchair bound, very senior Frank Sheeran, played by Robert DeNiro. Frank is a truck driver delivering meat in 1950s Philadelphia when he starts a side hustle selling some of his load to a local gangster. After his employer accuses him of theft and he loses his job, Frank is introduced to Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci, the leader of the Bufalino crime family in Pennsylvania. Frank begins working for the family and soon finds himself as a hitman and rises through the ranks to eventually become the bodyguard for famed union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). That’s the brief summary, but as you would imagine from a film this big, it goes a lot deeper than that!
The thing this film has going for it is the acting! Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci would have to be the two standouts for me. They deliver some amazingly intense and impressive scenes, the film is shot in such an intimate way, with many up close and personal conversations, allowing the two to shine. The highlight of DeNiro’s performance for me was his phone call to Jo Hoffa towards the end of the film, he really brought me into the scene and his guilt and shame felt so real.
Another strong point for the film was the makeup and costume design. All the outfits are fantastic, suited the time period and everyone was looking so sharp on-screen. As for the special effects and make-up, they managed to both age and ‘de-age’ many of the characters, with the results being super impressive of characters from looking natural with very believable young-looking faces, to the old, arthritis riddled DeNiro was perfect.
The Irishman is a long, dense and story driven film full of way too many characters. It has potential but I think it fell flat due to overzealous director, Scorcese who I believe should have reeled it in a little and given the film more pace. Honestly, I think this would have been better presented as a 3-part or 4-part limited series, rather than a 3-and-a-half-hour snooze fest. It could have been a little more fleshed out with the structure which could have given a better flow to the story. If you’re sick and stuck on the couch, give it a watch, but don’t go rushing to see it.