THE IRISHMAN Review
Streaming services have garnered some unwanted attention over the past few months. Since Netflix released the Academy Award winning Roma, old men who want their art to make money but won’t admit…Sorry, I mean respected directors, have come out to bat against them. Namely, Steven Spielberg who contested Roma’s eligibility for the Oscars. Spielberg, the same man who has signed on to work for Apple’s streaming service. Yet one man is “desperate” enough to stoop so low as to work with ‘the destroyer of cinema’, Netflix. Martin Scorsese smartly sees Netflix as an evolution of cinema. Cinema isn’t where a film is shown, but what is shown, and once again, Scorsese delivers pure cinema.
The Irishman, like most Scorsese, follows the rise and fall of one man. This time, it’s about Frank Sheeran who becomes a mob hitman and later, friend and bodyguard to union activist Jimmy Hoffa. Based on Charles Brandt’s book I Hear You Paint Houses, the focus is on Hoffa’s mysterious disappearance/rumoured death and how Sheeran is involved.
Everything about this movie screams typical Scorsese; the cast, the soundtrack, the mob, crime epic, the rise and fall of one man. Yet this is a more mature Scorsese that manages to reflect on his previous entries in the genre and offer a fresh perspective once again.
For a three and a half hour run time, Scorsese keeps you engaged most of the way and earns it by the end. For the majority of the run time, it feels like what Scorsese would normally offer, but in the closing hours he shows a new side to the crime epic. It isn’t about the flashy suits and guns and colourful language. It’s about loyalty and friendship and maturing and reflective on one’s life and whether it was worth it all. It initially comes across as a grumpy old man complaining about ‘kids these days’ and the people’s lack of knowledge of who Jimmy Hoffa was. Yet that is the point in that once everything is said and done, was it all worth it if nobody cares anymore?
In a shocking turn of events, renowned actors De Niro, Pacino and Pesci deliver great performances. Not much needs to be said about these actors who just slide back into roles they’ve inhabited numerous times before, seamlessly. What does need to be addressed is the de-ageing technology that was hyped for the movie. It was ambitious to deliver an entire movie with multiple actors playing numerous ages. The problem is that the technology isn’t ready for that and doesn’t make them look younger, just shinier. There are moments when it’s impossible to tell what age the characters are supposed to be and it makes scenes where Pesci addresses De Niro as ‘kid’ even though the two look the same age, bizarrely funny. It detracts from the experience and should be commended, but is a step too far.
While the last hour of the film is fresh, the rest of it can feel formulaic and repetitive. There are memorable moments, but it’s the 15 minutes of montages across years, or tangents about Jimmy Two Times in between that make it drag in times. When it’s backstories that you’ve seen a hundred times over, most of them by the same director, then it becomes dull.
The Irishman shows similar beats of classic Scorsese but through the lens of a more mature filmmaker. It’s reflective, of not just ageing but of Scorsese’s career that while lengthy is engrossing due to a tight script delivered from masterful actors, yet undermined by eager de-aging technology. All from the comfort of your own home.