The Irishman Review
A fantastic film from a genre I don't particularly love.
This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I write movie reviews for everything I see.
So, here's the thing... I don't like being the guy that says a certain genre or type of film is not the kind of film for them. Sure, I would definitely have said that even in middle school when I watched animated movies and didn't want to watch anything else, but now that I've become more interested in film, I like to think that I'm open to watching pretty much anything so long as its story and overall execution is engaging. There might be some movies that might be more "my kind of movie," like personal dramas or dialogue-driven movies for me, but I like to think that I am open to liking or disliking any film regardless of its content or genre depending on its execution. That being said, I've never 100% clicked with gangster movies. I admittedly haven't seen many of them, but they're just films that I don't really find myself going out of my way to see that often. I'm also really not a fan of longer movies in general, but if a movie can keep me engaged despite its runtime, I'm still there for it.
That's why I can say with confidence that despite the fact that this is probably one of the longest movies I've ever seen and despite the fact that it's a gangster film, I honestly really can't find anything incredibly major that's wrong with this movie. Okay, sure, sometimes you can definitely feel the runtime (I admittedly tried multitasking throughout the course of this movie and that was probably a bad choice), there are some editing choices that I'll talk about later that I didn't really like, and the movie does give off more of a Netflix vibe than a Scorsese "Goodfellas vibe." However, this film isn't trying to do the same thing that Goodfellas did. Where Goodfellas was a drama that made you feel as if you were living the life of a gangster, The Irishman is one were you simply EXPERIENCE it by watching someone live their life as one. In that respect, I totally understand the 3.5 hour runtime of this film. It's more intimate, it allows for a total and complete exploration of Frank Sheeran's life as a gangster, and it makes you feel like you're watching all of these events unfold right before your eyes. It tries to get as close as it possibly can to emanating what living most of your life as a gangster would be like, and that's honestly respectable. I personally can't think of a scene that didn't belong in the movie, even if you could feel the runtime throughout the course of the film. I feel like this is more of an experience than an entertaining story, and I completely respect Scorsese for that choice.
Every actor is fantastic in this movie. Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci, of course, steal the show in roles that harken back to some of the best of their career. Ray Romano is great in his limited screentime, the secondary actors are all a blast to watch, I honestly didn't even recognize Al Pacino (who was also fantastic) because I didn't know what role he played going into this movie. Everybody here is just phenomenal. They don't feel like these famous, larger-than-life actors, they feel like their characters, and that's a testament to how great all of these guys are together. Also, I wanted to mention that before this movie, I kind of laughed at the fact that this movie got a Best Visual Effects nomination because I thought, "It's a gangster movie. How can it have special effects like that?" However, after watching it, I completely agree with that decision because the de-aging CGI in this film is beyond outstanding. I couldn't even tell it was CGI, it was that seamless.
Yes, The Irishman is incredibly long, and yes, there are a couple of weird editing choices. I honestly don't like Scorsese's choice to put nametags over certain gangsters telling us exactly when and how they died, sometimes artificially zooming into their faces. Also, this is something I'm going to talk about in a review that will probably come out tonight, but I really don't like edits that jump cut between events that are, like, a second apart from each other if the character or event remains stationary in their place. There is one edit like that where Frank is on the phone with someone and it suddenly cuts from him saying hi to a point in the conversation, like, a second later for no reason. They're not necessary edits, they're over the top, and they're just plain annoying. I also don't get who Frank was talking to and how he changed locations as he narrated the story throughout this movie unless it was some sort of delirium or something. However, with the long runtime and the great execution of the rest of the film, those editing and pacing weirdnesses are so minor in the grand scheme of things that they honestly don't even matter. If you can make every scene in a movie as long as this feel necessary, you've definitely done something right with your filmmaking. While The Irishman is definitely not going to be a movie I watch over and over again and there are better movies in terms of re-watchability, it absolutely deserves its spot as one of the best movies of 2019.
Letter Grade: A+