The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman (2019)

2019 | 209 Minutes

Drama | Crime

World War II veteran and mob hitman Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • Moviegeek98

    10 / 10
    “I heard you paint houses.” That title, that line of dialogue, so seemingly innocuous that its ominous, refers to Robert De Niro’s violent past that struck back and ruin not just his life, but the others around him. A life in which we’re about to explore. “The Irishman”, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a film about looking upon what you’ve left behind and squaring up with it all in the final destination, as “Marty” enters into mature mode and delivers an epic meditation on time, aging, legacy, and guilt that reaches the parts other gangster films only dream of.
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    In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran gets involved with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he crosses paths and befriends Jimmy Hoffa, a powerful Teamster who has ties to organized crime.
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    The film opens with a slow deliberate move through a nursing home, past orderlies and wheel-chaired patients, to land on De Niro’s character, well into old age and nearing death, recounting his story to an off-screen interviewer, which leads into the main terror of the film’s narrative, that one single decision could change a person’s life entirely. De Niro spends his time trying to figure out what exactly went wrong, digging into memories, and then realizing it’s not the terror of the single decision, but of each one which lead you to that choice.
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    This massive 209 minute film that’s narrated by De Niro is structured as a cinematic nesting doll of flashbacks that’s buoyed by fast editing, elaborate cinematography, and wall-to-wall classic rock tunes. An epic journey that’s paced leisurely, the film goes through decades of history and thousands of miles, as we follow De Niro’s early days of meeting the elegant, sinister boss of Pennsylvania after serving his time in the war and how they hit it off, his meeting of a whole bunch of different gangsters with colorful nicknames, and most importantly, getting a glimpse into his homelife, where De Niro chooses to solve most of his problems by giving the issue an almighty beating. It’s a character trait - a desire to protect his family but with no real idea how - that comes to reverberate in the poignant third act.
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    The considerable runtime lets you feel the weight of De Niro’s character and his relationships as they grow and then deteriorate. You get a sense of the dynamics between the characters and it picks up superbly as the various conflicts come together. But what truly lifts this narrative head and shoulders above water is that it doesn’t end when the bodies are buried and the gangsters are locked up. Instead, it becomes a powerful, painful study of regret, but not remorse. “You don’t know how fast time goes by ‘til you get there.” De Niro tells the nurse during the third act. Those moments contemplating the end of everything are among the most moving of Scorsese’s career.
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    Now, one of the biggest draws of this film is Scorsese’s ambitious plan to use digital de-aging effects to have his actors play younger versions of themselves. While the scenes of De Niro in the war, which are sparse, are a bit distracting, it’s incredible of how well it looks. Removing 20 years off of De Niro, you forget that he’s actually in his 70s while watching these sequences play out. Granted, his stiff movement will remind you that it’s a illusion, but it’s still a impressive feat nevertheless.
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    Whatever digital work was done on the actors’ faces was engineered with enough care and subtlety to allow their performance to shine through the CGI schmutz, as the three leads all bring in an incredible performance that they’ve done in years. Most notably Robert De Niro, who’s acting intelligence is showcased here at its outmost potential. He subtly explicates on his character’s lack of education and shows his tendencies of taking everything for granted and acting as a willing pawn to the higher ups. He’s playing a man who, by his own admission at one point, feels nothing for the heinous crimes he’s committed. It’s a riveting performance and it only gets better as the film progresses, as the third act could potentially be some of De Niro’s best acting work in ages.
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    Joe Pesci, who’s returning after years of not being in a major role, brings a surprising and grandfatherly gentleness to his character that juxtaposes nicely with the violence he oversees. Al Pacino, which is truly shocking and a massive shame that this is the FIRST time he’s working with Martin Scorsese, delivers a bombastic and vulgar filled comedic performance that shares fantastic chemistry with De Niro’s character.
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    “The Irishman” is further proof of why director Martin Scorsese is a powerhouse in cinema. The film’s self-reflexive, contemplative narrative covers many mournful topics and themes throughout its enormous runtime, but to swiftly summarize this epic is Scorsese inviting us to take a passage through life and the sad fate that awaits all of us, saints and sinners alike. You can be a gangster all you want, just remember you’ll probably want to leave the door slightly open at night near the end. Enjoy the f**king ice cream while you can.