Pros: Impressive cast; an epic canvas in which Scorsese argues with himself thirty years ago; grandiose decorations and paraphernalia of the 50-80s, a lot of small everyday details; a very important story for the American audience Cons: Anti-aging technology and makeup narrow the “dynamic range” of great actors; it is difficult for the main cast to play characters 30-50 years younger than them; very low pace of the picture; timing The Irishman / “The Irishman”
Genre crime drama
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Robert De Niro (Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran), Al Pacino (James “Jimmy” Hoffa), Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino), Ray Romano (Bill Bufalino), Bobby Cannavale (Felix “Razor Skinny” Ditullio), Anna Paquin (Peggy Sheeran), Stephen Graham (Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano), Welker White (Josephine “Joe” Hoffa), Jack Huston (Robert F. Kennedy), Domenic Lombardozzi (“Fat Tony” Salerno), etc.
TriBeCa Productions, Netflix
Year of release 2019
The Irishman is an adaptation of Charles Brandt’s semi-documentary novel I Heard You Paint Houses, based on the author’s conversations with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a trade unionist and professional Mafia killer who confessed to multiple murders in interviews shortly before his death. on the orders of the Bufalino crime family. Among other things, Sheeran also admitted to the murder of his longtime friend and boss, popular labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, whose disappearance in August 1975 is considered one of the most famous crime mysteries in US history, comparable to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What makes the situation especially poignant is the fact that Jimmy Hoffa was a long-time and implacable enemy of the Kennedy family and, in particular, the president’s younger brother, Robert Kennedy, who spoiled a lot of blood for him. Moreover, Hoffa was among those suspected of involvement in the JFK assassination. Despite Sheeran’s confession, it is still not known for certain whether everything really happened, and many authors dispute the veracity of the Irishman’s testimony.
The events of The Irishman, built in the form of a confession of an elderly gangster, cover the period from 1955 to 2003. An epic canvas that can be roughly divided into a prologue telling about Sheeran’s acquaintance with Russell Bufalino and the beginning of his work for the mafia, the central part telling about Sheeran’s friendship with Hoffa and the murder of a trade unionist, and a poignant epilogue showing the once all-powerful gangsters as frail old men looking back on their lives and realizing that they wasted it, losing what was most important in their quest to follow the truly meaningless rules of the criminal world.
For Scorsese, The Irishman is also an attempt to look back at his life and his work in the 80s and 90s. last century. After all, Martin Scorsese, along with Francis Ford Coppola and Sergio Leone, are the very people who created gangster cinema, romanticized the mafia and made this path somewhat attractive to representatives of several generations. In The Irishman, Scorsese argues with his thirty-year-old self, referring to his own films Goodfellas and Casino, trying to show what really lies behind the glamorous facade of the life of a mafioso, where this road ultimately leads. He already did something similar in The Departed, in The Irishman the idea of the hopelessness of criminal life is emphasized to an even greater extent.
Naturally, in order to make a film that rivals the most famous crime dramas of the 20th century, Scorsese also needed actors who are directly associated with these films. And if the director has already worked with the same Robert De Niro and John Pesci in Goodfellas and Casino, then for Al Pacino this is the first joint film with Scorsese.
Undoubtedly, actors of such magnitude will decorate any film, and no one in their right mind would doubt their talent, after all, four Oscars for three people means something, but, it seems to me, Scorsese’s desire to cast the same performers both in the image of young people and in the role of frail old people, relying on virtual rejuvenation technologies and makeup is a big mistake. After all, Robert De Niro, John Pesci and Al Pacino are already well over seventy (76, 76 and 79 years old, respectively), it is simply physically difficult for them to play young people. They already have a limited, old man’s range of facial expressions, a limited timbre of their voices, in the end, they move like old men, and in many scenes this is clearly visible.
Let’s say that De Niro’s hero is only 35 years old in the initial scenes of the film, and in one of the flashbacks he is even 24; the actor clearly has a hard time with these episodes. Or Al Pacino’s hero has several scenes in which he yells at his subordinates… it is clearly visible that the actor has great difficulty in achieving such an outburst of emotions. The Irishman is just the case that clearly demonstrates that no amount of money or technology can fight old age. Virtual de-aging makes things worse in some scenes, turning the actors’ faces into death masks.
Another problem with The Irishman is the timing and pacing. And although Scorsese was hostile to the idea of some viewers to turn the film into a miniseries, dividing it into four virtual episodes, it is not without logic. It’s really not easy to endure three hours of a very leisurely, heavy film filled with a lot of seemingly insignificant details.
And finally, about the story itself, which the film is dedicated to. Yes, for the United States, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa is one of the great criminal mysteries of the 20th century, disturbing the public for almost 45 years. Dozens of books have been written about Hoffa and his possible murder, several films have been made… but even in the USA they began to forget about him, which Scorsese himself ironically emphasizes in the finale of the film. What can we say about domestic viewers, for whom the name Jimmy Hoffa means nothing at all.
It is undeniable that Martin Scorsese made a grandiose film; just analyzing the religious allusions in The Irishman could fill a liter of ink, as well as drawing parallels with the previous works of the director and some of his colleagues. And yes, most likely, the film will collect a good harvest of awards in February 2020, but… personally, I will remain a fan of Scorsese’s other works – Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and, of course, the classic 1976 Taxi Driver with a young Robert De Niro.
The Irishman is an impressive directorial work by Martin Scorsese, but still the film is inferior to the films Scorsese shot in 1990-2010.