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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Scorsese scores another hit with "The Irishman"

Nov 22, 2019 01:30AM ● By Dan Metcalf

The Irishman (Netflix)

Rated R for pervasive language and strong violence.

Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Stephen Graham, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi, Anna Paquin, Sebastian Maniscalco, Ray Romano, Jeremy Luke, Jesse Plemons, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Aleksa Palladino, India Ennenga, J. C. MacKenzie, Gary Basaraba, Jim Norton, Larry Romano, Jake Hoffman, Patrick Gallo, Barry Primus, Jack Huston.

Written by Steven Zaillian, based on "I Heard You Paint Houses" by Charles Brandt.

Directed by Martin Scorsese.



To go through a decade without a mobster movie from Martin Scorsese is like a night without darkness. Marty owns the genre and it doesn’t look like he’s going to relinquish dominance of it any time soon. The thing is, he’s so darned good at it. Every time he makes one, people anoint it as his “masterpiece,” only to be outdone by his next film. Scorsese’s other “non-mafia” films have received appropriate accolades and box office results, but market forces always seem to compel him to make more mobster tales, leading us to this week’s release of The Irishman, starring frequent Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro as a legendary hitman.

De Niro portrays Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a World War II vet whose chance meeting with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), one of the main mafioso players during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s leads him to perform shady deals, including “knocking off” a few rivals, snitches, and disavowed or unfaithful members of the clan. Frank performs his duties so well that he’s appointed as a special assistant to Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), which develops into a strong friendship over the next decades. This friendship is ultimately put to the test when Hoffa’s antics start to go against the Mafia leadership’s wishes. Bufalino and the other “family” leaders put out a contract on Hoffa, and the only person they can trust to take care of this kind of dirty work is Frank.

The Irishman is as good or better than most of Scorsese’s other “Mob” films, creating a tapestry of that spans several decades, involving iconic figures and historic moments, including the Kennedys, The Bay of Pigs, Watergate and others. Scorsese weaves Frank’s story into these moments with expert precision, creating scenes that accommodate character development, moralistic dilemmas, and great performances. The editing is especially noteworthy, tying these scenes together, no matter when they occur on the timeline of events.

I think the familiarity with Scorsese’s body of work might be a distraction for some audiences who might not appreciate the nuanced differences between Goodfellas, Casino, or The Departed. The same can be said for the likes of De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci. Speaking of Pesci, he steps well outside his other previous mobster roles, delivering a more stoic and calculating “mob boss” persona, much different than his “angry loose cannon” roles in other Scorsese movies. I can’t say the same for De Niro and Pacino, whose performances seem all too familiar.

As for historical accuracy, The Irishman isn’t supported by any conventional theories regarding the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and its premise as a true story is based on legend more than fact. Speaking of Hoffa, The Irishman might have worked under the alternative title of “What Happened to Hoffa?” at times being less about Frank Sheeran’s hitman career and more about his involvement in the Hoffa case. Even so, Frank’s journey as a mobster is intriguing enough to hold your interest right up to the end of the movie.

It should be noted that The Irishman is rather violent and extremely long, coming in at just under three and a half hours. The movie will be released in select theaters this weekend and on Netflix five days later.

"The Irishman" Trailer