Villain’s Thoughts on The Irishman

Yesterday marked the day everyone could finally check out The Irishman on Netflix. The new Martin Scorsese gangster film has been available for viewing in theaters already, and the buzz for the film has been excellent.

The Irishman was a project that Martin Scorsese wanted to make for a long time, but it seemed like too ambitious of a project to get off the ground. Netflix definitely ended up being the best place for it because the de-aging technology raised the budget and the final cut ended up being 3 and a half hours. Chances are that would never fly at one of the big studios. With Netflix it seems like Scorsese got to make the film he wanted to make.

Scorsese brings back two of his most famous collaborators, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. He hasn’t worked with either of them since Casino nearly 25 years ago. Pesci came out of retirement to do the movie. Harvey Keitel, who has also worked with Scorsese several times makes an appearance in a smaller role. Al Pacino plays union leader Jimmy Hoffa, in what is surprisingly his first time working with Scorsese and Scorsese brings two actors from his sort lived show Vinyl as well with Bobby Cannavale and Ray Romano rounding out the cast.

The film focuses on a true story, although its a true story that still has some questions surrounding it. The film mostly revolves around a mafia hitman, who goes to work with Jimmy Hoffa, a union leader with ties to organized crime that mysteriously disappeared in 1975. The movie stretches over decades, from the main character’s time in World War II to his time in a nursing home.

Talking about The Irishman after only seeing it once may actually be a bit unfair. This is a fairly dense movie, but it also requires some dedication to get through with that runtime. That said, the length of the movie didn’t really wear on me. It takes its time, its very well paced, and it doesn’t seem like its been interfered with much.

Frank Sheeran is easily Robert De Niro’s best character in at least two decades. De Niro is known for playing this huge bombastic characters while working with Scorsese, but this time he’s definitely more subdued. Its sort of a sign of the times. The same goes for Joe Pesci, who seems guaranteed for an Oscar nomination for this movie. Pacino plays a bit more into type since he’s playing Jimmy Hoffa, who required a lot more charisma.

De Niro’s character does plenty of bad stuff in the movie, but he never gets volatile about it. If he has to kill someone it never feels like its personal, but it also never really feels like it bothers him at all. He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do. The final half hour of this movie is probably my favorite. It almost feels like the epilogue of a novel, where it shows Frank Sheeran in his old age, when he’s been forced to pay the price for some of his actions. You could say that the last 20 years have tarnished De Niro’s legacy a bit because he’s been in a lot of bad projects, same with Pacino, but they both prove to be capable of giving powerhouse performances here. They’re still among the best talents Hollywood has ever seen.

Everyone seems to have their own opinion on the de-aging technology. I wasn’t completely floored by it, there are definitely some flaws with it. Not that the actual CGI looks bad, but when you have a 75 year old man playing an 40 year old man you can tell because they move definitely. If De Niro is in a altercation then you realize there’s an old man under all that CGI. Also, if you go into this thinking you’re going to see Raging Bull De Niro and Pesci interacting again then you’re going to be disappointed, because this technology is just not at that point yet, you can still tell there are old men under there. That said, it isn’t distracting either.

I haven’t seen all Scorsese’s films, but I do think that this is among some of his mature work. This is a film that comes at the right time for him and the cast as they are obviously in their twilight years. The Irishman doesn’t show the glamorous side of being a gangster like Goodfellas does, it doesn’t really have the exploitive moments, and Scorsese’s style is dialed down and not trying to take over the movie. Speaking of Goodfellas I almost feel like Ray Liotta was missing from this film. Would’ve made sense if he showed up even if it was just for a second. At the end of the day I think this movie has a lot to say about getting old, and if you’re wondering if this movie lived up to the hype it absolutely did. Its one of my favorites of the year.