You’ve seen The Irishman before. In fact, you can say that Martin Scorsese has made The Irishman before. Sure, it’s gone under different names and has been presented in different forms by various filmmakers over the past several decades, but ultimately, it’s always mostly the same movie. With all that being true, that’s not to say that you’ll have a negative view of this latest rendition of a mobster’s story.
The Irishman centers around Frank Sheeran (Rober De Niro), a WWII vet whose life is transformed after establishing a relationship with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and a number of other mobsters. Once that happens, he earns their trust and begins taking jobs as a hitman. His run in this line of work spans decades and introduces him to some of the most notorious figures of the 20th Century. Some of them are greeted with handshakes and hugs while others are greeted with bullets.
With this film, Scorsese is back telling a story that’s going over a guy’s time running with the mob. There are about three or four stories here, but none of them can really be nailed down as the primary focus. And while it hits some familiar notes, it also feels like its own movie at times. That’s mostly because they do just enough to sometimes separate it from what we’ve seen in the past.
To accomplish this, one thing they do is add in a bunch of real-life characters who played a part in many different things. In some cases, these guys aren’t in the movie for long and only make a brief appearance or two. It’s done in a unique way, but once they serve their purpose, many of these guys vanish fairly quickly.
There are other instances where these historical figures stick around for a while and sometimes play an important part in the film. The most obvious is Jimmy Hoffa played by Al Pacino. With Hoffa as well as others, I’m not sure just how accurate most of this stuff is. I know it’s a movie based in reality to some extent, but it’s Hollywood. Here, we know they can just slap anything on a page and tell you it’s true.
Regardless of how real this stuff is, it’s used to tell a captivating story about life in the mob and how involved they were with so many things back in those days. For fans of these types of films, it’s easy to see that most will view The Irishman as something worth watching. As I said, most of this stuff is what you’ve already seen before. And if you’ve loved watching any of the films made about this lifestyle in the past, you probably won’t be doing too much complaining about this one.
Something that amused me was seeing some of the characters they chose to include if only for a split second. Some of the people we meet are important figures you’ve probably seen in greater detail before in other films. There was even a character who was once played by Joe Pesci years ago being played by someone else in this movie. Seeing that was kind of odd, but it made things a bit more interesting because I ended up feeling like I didn’t know who was going to pop up.
One feature that’s still relatively new to this type of Scorsese picture is CGI. To make this movie, they de-age these guys at certain stages since they use a number of flashback scenes to tell the stories we get. At first, this stuff was awful, but it seemed to get better over time. To be honest, I don’t know if it actually improved or not. It could have, but there’s a possibility that I just got used to what was on screen. Either way, it became less of a distraction as the movie went on.
When it comes to the de-aging process and the scenes based in the past, I’ll say that the scenes where De Niro has to be physical and active in his earlier years should have been handled differently. Although he’s supposed to be younger during these time periods, all you need is a few moments to see he’s much older than he’s supposed to be. When needed, they should have just used stunt doubles or whatever.
It would have looked more legitimate if they had done so. Because they decided not to, I was kind of thrown off. These are the small things that occur in movies sometimes that can take you out of the moment. That’s especially true for a film that’s supposed to be taken seriously. Luckily, there aren’t too many of these scenes so the damage isn’t as devastating.
For the most part, I did like what we’re offered in The Irishman. However, if I were going to point out anything else that I would have changed, it would have been its format. Although it’s a well-made movie overall, it does drag a bit at times due to its three and a half-hour run time. As I said earlier, there are about three or four different stories being told.
The first thing I thought of while sitting through it was that it would work better if it were split up into a couple of movies. Someone I know even suggested that it be turned into a miniseries instead. That’s a better idea in my opinion, but that would have been unlikely since Scorsese is always on the constant hunt for Oscars.
Taking this and turning it into a miniseries works simply because there’s so much material. It also makes more sense when you take into account that there are these small touches that would work better in tv form. The added bonus by doing this would be that it now has a justifiable reason to be released on Netflix. That’s where most people are going to see it anyway and I don’t know how much actual success it’s going to have when it comes to winning film awards.
I’m sure most who watch The Irishman will be fine with its content. Some will have an issue with its length if they try to watch it in one sitting, but I’m sure others can get through it all at once as long as they’re truly and utterly mesmerized by what’s being shown to them. That will mainly come down to their love of mobster films and the acting that we get from the likes of De Niro, Pacino and Pesci as we follow these characters around.
In some ways, you can say that The Irishman was a safe movie for Martin Scorsese to make. He’s made movies similar to this in the past, so seeing him doing well with it again shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. In my opinion, his best movie is Goodfellas. And if he can make something that good, he most certainly should have been able to handle a movie like The Irishman with no problem.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian
Robert De Niro
Film Length: 209 minutes
November 15, 2019 (Limited Theatrical)
November 27, 2019 (Netflix)
- Score - 7/107/10