Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Release date: 27 November, 2019
Running Time: 209 Minutes
The Irishman is a 2019 American epic crime film directed and produced by Martin Scorsese and written by Steven Zaillian, based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. It stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, with Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel in supporting roles. The film follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman and gets involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and his crime family, including his time working for the powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).
In September 2014, after years of development hell, The Irishman was announced as Scorsese’s next film following Silence (2016). De Niro, who also served as producer, and Pacino were confirmed that month, as was Pesci, who came out of his unofficial retirement to star after being asked numerous times to take the role. Principal photography began in September 2017 in New York City and in the Mineola and Williston Park sections of Long Island, and wrapped in March 2018. With a production budget of $159 million and a runtime of 209 minutes, it is one of the most expensive films of Scorsese’s career, as well as his longest.
The Irishman had its world premiere at the 57th New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019, and began a limited theatrical release on November 1, 2019, to be followed by digital streaming on Netflix on November 27 November, 2019. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with major praise drawn towards Scorsese’s direction and the performances of De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci.
The Irishman Movie Trailer:
The Irishman Movie Review:
There is no truth that Martin Scorsese’s camera can’t capture. Even if it is buried beneath four inches of digital makeup.
In The Irishman, his long-gestating passion project about life, loss, and misplaced priorities, the legendary filmmaker cashes a blank cheque he’s had in his back pocket for what seems like decades, trading it in for bonus runtime and a budget that would normally be assigned to the sort of films that he likes to compare to theme park rides.
Released on Netflix after an unconventional theatrical roll-out, The Irishman is a story about men coming to terms with their mortality — both in front of and behind the camera. It’s certainly not a film that even Scorsese, in all his immortal brilliance, could have made as a young man. It is at once dense with detail, yet feels curiously lean on plot. At a staggering 209 minutes long, The Irishman requires the sort of commitment that you probably haven’t made since the last time you trusted Ashutosh Gowariker with your money.
Unlike the director of What’s Your Rashee, Scorsese remains one of the few living filmmakers, besides perhaps Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Quentin Tarantino, who can justify an extended runtime. Despite how long The Irishman is, it always feels like a movie and never a miniseries. Although many of you might consume it like one.
Scorsese has called it ‘a costly experiment’, which is more a comment on the technical wizardry at play and not necessarily on the narrative, which is, rather surprisingly, very traditional. Steven Zaillian’s multi-layered screenplay — there are flashbacks within flashbacks — spans several decades, as it traces the rise and fall of two men, the corrupt union leader Jimmy Hoffa and the low-level Mafia hitman destined to kill him, Frank Sheeran.
At the height of his fame, the Hoffa was said to be as popular as Elvis Presley and The Beatles at the height of theirs. “I heard you paint houses,” the Teamster, as played by Al Pacino, growls at Sheeran (Robert De Niro) in their first conversation over the phone, referencing the film’s original title, which Scorsese retains in the opening credits. It is also a euphemism for murder, an act that Sheeran carries out several times in the film, with a mundane deadness that one would normally associate with actually painting houses. In one scene, Sheeran curb-stomps a shop owner not with any authority, but almost as if it is a part of some sort of established routine, like he’s getting groceries. Scorsese shoots this scene in an unbroken long shot, highlighting the workmanlike manner in which Sheeran carries out the most terrible deeds.
It is a happy coincidence then that the digital de-ageing robs De Niro’s eyes of any humanity. Whether or not this was Scorsese’s intention, or simply evidence of an imperfect technology, is unclear. The inconsistent effects make it difficult to read Sheeran as a character — again, this could be intentional — but to De Niro’s credit, he always maintains an air of non-confrontational level-headedness. Pacino, on the other hand, is in proper Scent of a Woman form. On several occasions, while he was maniacally gesticulating with his arms and shooting mad-eyed glares at anyone within staring distance, I expected him to yell his catchphrase — “Hoo-ah!”
A scene around the halfway mark that features both De Niro and Pacino operating on godlike levels, has the potential to become as culturally relevant as the ‘Do I amuse you?’ exchange in Scorsese’s other gangster classic, Goodfellas. It is a masterclass in scene-construction; remorselessly edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, lavishly photographed by Rodrigo Preito, and thrillingly written by Zaillian. You can almost picture Scorsese, sitting behind his monitors in video village, with a big grin on his face.
And once again it is Joe Pesci — summoned out of retirement by Scorsese, the third wheel in this iconic cinematic get-together — who truly delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. As the quietly convincing mobster Russell Bufalino, Pesci is vindictive and vile; sneering and salty. For some strange reason, even the digital effects aren’t as distracting on him as they are on De Niro.
But underneath all this manly posturing, like the actors’ souls buried under visual trickery, is a story about guilt — a theme that Scorsese has been struggling to comprehend for decades, the devout Catholic boy that he is. In its final moments, The Irishman shrugs off its bravado and transforms into a melancholy meditation on ageing.
Don’t make the same mistake that I did and watch it on your phone. It is the sort of film that you allow to simmer in its own juices for a while, immune as it is to hasty judgement. So pop open a non-alcoholic beverage, slice up some watermelons, and scoop out your favorite ice cream. Purchase a large television, invest in Netflix stock, and never, ever, lose your faith in Martin Scorsese.