Starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale
You can appreciate Martin Scorsese’s accomplishments and his lasting legacy in cinema without really loving his films. His latest “The Irishman” is a Netflix-funded mob flick that harkens back to his “Casino” or “Goodfellas” days, with a spattering of familiar cast. Given free rein by Netflix, the only studio who would (or could) give him this type of budget leeway, The Oscar-winning director feels the need to show the main character doing even the most insignificant of tasks. As the film passes the two-hour mark on its way to three hours and thirty minutes, you realize that giving a filmmaker ultimate control, maybe isn’t always the best idea. Now if you are at home watching on Netflix and not in theaters you can pause and take breaks, but even then, “The Irishman” will test your patience.
“I heard you paint houses,” Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) inquiring about the reliable meat man turned hitman Frank Sheeran (DeNiro). Back when he was delivering meat or stealing it, depending on who you asked, Frank had a chance encounter with mob boss Russell Bufalino, he fixed his truck broke down on the side of the road. A chance encounter turned into a lifelong friendship and a career path he never saw coming. Frank quickly became the go-to guy for the most difficult situations, which is why politician and union leader Jimmy Hoffa wanted him by his side. However, a dog can’t faithfully serve two masters. When one organization’s needs get crossed with the other entitled ambitions, both houses end up needing a new coat of paint.
After three hours we just want the end to come because "The Irishman" gives the audience very little to take with them or apply to their own lives.
When you start watching “The Irishman,” after being guaranteed brilliance by so much hype and positive reviews, you should be a little concerned when things never pick up. Of course as Frank tells us in the story, you know in this business when someone says “a little concerned” that means you should be “very concerned.” An hour in, when Pacino shows up shouting and stealing the film away from everyone else, there is welcome new energy to the pacing. Hoffa’s story begins to navigate the narrative, putting DeNiro and Pesci’s softer roles on the back burner. Even if you didn’t know who Hoffa was, this film does a good job helping you out with that, despite knowing what’s coming for him. There is an underlying vein of dry humor and irony that runs through “The Irishman,” similar to “The Departed.” A few chuckles isn’t respite for the meandering Scorsese does, losing his average viewer in the process.
In 209 minutes, the film builds to one singular uncomfortable moment, the one that finds Frank truly the middle man. It’s the third act where we get the slightest of emotional resonance, not that DeNiro’s character shows much of anything. After three hours we just want the end to come because “The Irishman” gives the audience very little to take with them or apply to their own lives. The much talked about computer-generated de-aging isn’t distracting in the slightest and Scorsese’s team really blends the visual effects with the natural in a way that never feels like an effect or gimmick. Some of the wide shots are beautiful and really transport the viewer to a time period that spans over forty years. The question you will have to decide for yourself, is the three and half hours worth the effort?
Two good performances and some technical wizardry doesn’t warrant the films excessive running time and crippled pacing.