The Irishman (2019) A Review

The king of the Mob epic returns with a new story, making the most of the newly developed de-aging technology, and showcasing some of the best talent to genre has to offer. 


DIRECTOR:  Martin Scorsese

STARRING:  Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

SCREENPLAY:  Charles Brandt (book), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)

GENRE:  Biography, Crime

RUNTIME:  209 Minutes (Yikes!)

★★★ 3 Stars  

Lets get this out of the way quickly; I am not the biggest fan of Martin Scorsese.  I didn’t hate Goodfellas but other then that, none of his films really speak to me in any kind of positive way.  So I was understandably hesitant to go into a three and a half hour epic by a director I have previously had unexciting experiences with.  Thankfully, The Irishman was not the slog I was expecting it to be.

The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a hitman for the Mob.  It literally follows his life from his early days in the mob right through until his days in a nursing home towards the end of his days.  In the middle we see the many unsavoury jobs he undertakes for the mob, and the ways in which it affects both him and his family in personal ways, and his possible involvement in the assassination of Jimmy Hoffa.

With a line up featuring the likes of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, there was no way this Gangster epic wasn’t going to be rammed full of amazing performances.  For me all three leading men gave exceptional performances.  So this isn’t new territory for any of them, this is a brand of movie they are all very familiar with, and no they don’t really bring any new this time around.  But with a film with a run time over 200 minutes, solid, reliable performances are necessary to avoid making potential audiences hesitant.  

This is familiar ground for Scorsese as well.  He is the king of mob movies, and while the decision to return to this genre may have been a safe one, an argument may be made that no one else could possibly have delivered this film, in this much detail, and have it be this successful.  

But I didn’t agree with everything here.  De Niro did a great job of showing that his character was very often conflicted about the jobs he was asked to do, and we had snippets showing how it affected his personal life.  But if Netflix were happy with a film of this length, I would have preferred some other scenes had been shaved down and we would have seen more of this personal side of his life.  Anna Paquin seems woefully underused here, as she is a constant reminder of the strain on his family, while only ever having one or two lines, and therefore, this heartfelt storyline to me seems almost unaddressed.

As for the runtime itself, you do feel the full three and a half hours.  This is not a blink and you miss it kind of deal.  I get that there was a lot of storytelling to cram in here, the story spans decades, but as previously mentioned, I do believe some scenes could have been shaved down, or removed entirely, especially towards the end, to help the film move more smoothly.

But for a film I was almost dreading to watch, I think it did OK.  I will never consider myself a Scorsese fan, but for other readers considering giving this the time of day, I can recommend it.  And if the runtime is off putting to you, there are several guides online on how you can break it up and watch it over several days.

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