By Dave B.
The Irishman (Netflix) gives a fictionalized account of the life of Teamster official Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he balances his friendship with the head of the Bufalino crime family, Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), with his loyalty to his friend and Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Since The Irishman is a VERY long movie, I’ll try to keep this review relatively short. For starters, I think it’s absurd that this movie would receive serious consideration for Academy Award for Best Picture. Yes, it’s a good movie. Yes, it’s compelling throughout its 209 minute runtime. Yes, there are some fantastic performances. Yes, the overall craftsmanship and directorial ability that are on display are masterful. But as far as mob scripts go, The Irishman’s is average and personally, I think that anyone who would put this film in the pantheon of gangster movies is out of their mind. It’s just too long and too predictable to be considered one of the best films of 2019, in my opinion.
That said, there are at least 3 aspects of The Irishman that make it’s excessive runtime more than tolerable. The first is that there are some truly stellar performances. I’m sure a lot of people will tell you that De Niro’s performance is great, and it is, but to me, Pesci steals the show. He quietly dominates every scene that he’s in and imbues his character with a melancholy dignity that permeates the mood of the entire film. Secondly, The Irishman embodies the very definition of masterful craftmanship. Every scene, every song, every camera angle is crafted with an uncommon amount of care and skill. This film shows Martin Scorsese’s technical skills at their very best. And the third thing that makes The Irishman a good movie is that although it’s fairly mundane as a gangster flick, it offers brilliant insight into the dynamics of male friendships and compellingly shows how difficult it can be for someone to do things that they must do when they don’t want to do them. The emotional resonance of the film with viewers increases as the movie progresses, making it’s 3+ hour runtime feel not nearly as long as it actually is.
In closing, The Irishman is a very good (but not great) film. There is zero chance that I would have been able to sit through it in a theater, so I’m glad that Netflix got it released directly to its subscribers as quickly as it did. And this movie is very easy to recommend, especially for fans of mob movies and those who appreciate strong acting performances and outstanding directorial skill. That said, don’t believe the hype: Even a spectacular cast and director don’t make The Irishman one of the best films of 2019 nor one of the best gangster movies ever.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.