Martin Scorsese worked on The Irishman for twelve years. The budget for the film kept increasing until no studio would touch it except Netflix. Scorsese’s last film, Silence, was critically acclaimed but a box office failure. And it got snubbed at the Oscars. So the question hanging over The Irishman is, “Is it any good?”
I was lucky enough to see the movie on the big screen during its limited theatrical release. It is one of Scorsese’s most compelling and watchable films. Even though the movie has a daunting running time at three and a half hours, it seems to pass quickly. I watched it at seven PM on a Friday night after a long day at work, and had concerns about being able to stay awake, pay attention, and follow the plot. But I had no problem.
The movie tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and his life of crime. Crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) takes him under his wing early on and watches out for him. Eventually, he assigns Sheeran to protect union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
The characters and the story draw you in. As Sheeran becomes pulled farther and farther into the criminal underground, so do we the audience become pulled into the story. DeNiro and Pacino are both at the top of their game. It’s great to see them working together for the first time in an A-list film since Heat. However, it’s Pesci who walks away with the movie and possibly with the Oscar. There’s a certain dignity to his portrayal of Bufalino. He’s the quiet anchor of the film: a complete 180 from his role in Goodfellas. And a perfect bookend to his career.
The movie has a few surprising moments of comedy. Both of them are scenes involving Pacino and DeNiro, and are among my favorites of the year. One comes late in the film during the third act, to relieve tension before the final battle.
The de-aging technology doesn’t look completely natural. It occasionally makes the actors look like video game characters. However, if you can get past that, there are some great performances in the film.
The movie is based on a non-fiction book titled I Heard You Paint Houses. However, Sheerhan’s confessions have been contested. We will never know the truth about most of the incidents depicted in the film. However, it makes for an entertaining story and a cautionary tale. This is among Scorsese’s best.
The credits run for 9 minutes and there is nothing extra during or after the credits.