'The Irishman' Movie Review
Martin Scorsese's long-awaited return to the crime genre is another excellent creation.
Released: 27th November 2019 (Netflix)
Length: 209 Minutes
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel and Bobby Cannavale
Of all the crime visionaries that have graced the silver screen, none have been as acclaimed or celebrated as Martin Scorsese. Over a decade after his last major crime flick, the director has returned to the genre and tone he knows best and the result is another unparalleled cinematic creation.
Based on the narrative non-fiction, I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) a simple war veteran whose dealings with mob man Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and corrupt union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) direct him towards a life of crime as a Mafia hitman. Over the next three decades, we follow these three men as they navigate both the criminal underworld and the changing landscape of American politics, providing for their families along the way and rubbing shoulders with other real-life figures marked by snappy subtitles. If 1990’s Goodfellas was glitzy and glamourized and The Departed gritty and realistic, The Irishman strikes a middle, more restrained ground. Much of the film sees the characters talking, negotiating, and conducting countless schemes to stay on top, punctuated by moments of suspense and violence. Yet it all remains so aggressively engaging due to sharp writing and compelling relations between the characters that always drive the narrative forward. These will be familiar to anyone who has followed the director closely; though for all the components that make a return in Scorsese’s latest epic, The Irishman also packs a more sobering edge. Without giving anything away, the final moments of the film are some of the most emotionally resonant and reflective sequences in any crime drama. At a runtime of three and a half hours, it’s incredibly impressive that the film maintains our attention for so long.
A fantastic cast lines the credits of The Irishman, led by three titans of the crime genre; Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino are all superb with distinctive characterisations that flawlessly slot into the story. De Niro once again narrates the proceedings with smooth mannerisms that draw the audience in, backing this up with some more softer moments that peel back the often-gruff exterior of the gangsters. Far from the loud-mouthed, swearing performances of films past, Joe Pesci’s return to acting sees him take a more nuanced and serious approach here, a single stare striking fear into those around him. Finally, Al Pacino’s over the top turn as Jimmy Hoffa is deliciously entertaining to see, a performance bursting with gusto and charisma. Watching them all play off each other throughout the production, there’s not a single weak moment in sight. The side cast that surrounds the three mains is equally strong with Sheeran’s family, personified mainly by Anna Paquin’s Peggy Sheeran, delivering more emotional friction that hangs over the criminal careers. With such a large list of characters, not one of them feels underdeveloped or overbearing, another solid achievement that other contemporaries can struggle with.
The same also holds true from a filmmaking standpoint; some discussion has been had surrounding The Irishman’s computer-generated effects, which are used in one area only. The de-aging seen on the main leads is one of the most effective uses of the technique to date; by showing the passage of time and the toll it takes on the characters, the plot is enhanced further. In line with this technology, the colour palette and overall atmosphere also shifts between the decades; with things slowly growing more washed out as the characters age and pass their prime. The soundtrack is typically appropriate for a crime film, making use of a wide array of period piece tracks that keep us up to date on the proceedings. Matched by authentic costume design and pitch-perfect set work, The Irishman is just as well produced as any other entry in the genre.
Every bit as excellent, elegant and engaging as Scorsese’s previous offerings, The Irishman is a phenomenal crime drama with some of the best performances and most immaculate set pieces you’ll see all year. Its impeccable crafting and attention to detail form a powerful tale that shouldn’t be missed by any fan of cinema.
Rating: 5/5 Stars (Exceptional)