“The Irishman” stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, and Harvey Keitel. Released on November 1, 2019, the film is about a hitman who recounts his jobs for a notorious crime family.
The film is directed by Martin Scorsese, who also directed films such as “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Goodfellas”, “Gangs of New York”, and “The Wolf of Wall Street”. It is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. Another week, another piece of cinematic art for me to review, and I don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to see it. Thanks to the power of Netflix (again), I was finally able to witness the latest gangster drama from one of the finest filmmakers of all time, Martin Scorsese. While I am familiar with Scorsese as a director and as an actor, I haven’t seen a lot of his works, aside from “Hugo” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”, nor have I seen any film from the crime genre. So consider this review as my first experience with this type of genre. There have been a lot of talks about this film, ranging from its word-of-mouth to the release strategy. More importantly, the word-of-mouth. Since its theatrical release, it’s been getting some extremely positive reactions from critics and audiences, which is quite impressive given the fact that it had a three-hour-plus runtime and a larger budget. However, not a lot of people seem to think that it is a masterpiece, with most of them calling it overlong or boring (mostly boring), which would make sense since it’s more dramatic and grounded than action-packed like “Avengers: Endgame”. So, after watching it for myself, which side do I stand?
The film’s plot involves the many historical events that were experienced by Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who takes a job as a hitman for mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci), including the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy and the disappearance of Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Before I express my brief feelings towards this film, I want to talk about its most common criticism that almost everyone has been talking about: the runtime. Clocking in at almost three and a half hours, “The Irishman” easily joins the group of epic dramas like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Malcolm X” in terms of the length. This is something that serves as both a strength and a weakness. While it’s suitable to showcase every detail from Sheeran’s journey, it can also be a handful when it has a plot that’s more dialogue-driven than action-packed. The first and third acts of the film were nicely-paced and interesting, but it’s the middle section that can put up quite a challenge for some people, especially those who aren’t fans of the crime genre. It’s the type of film that requires patience and strong willpower to make it all the way through without calling it quits. I was patient enough to watch the entire film, but I’m not that patient enough to watch it without taking some small breaks. Thank God for Netflix. My personal advice to you is that if you’re planning on watching it for yourself, make sure you plan out your break times before you hit play. That way, your patience level will remain consistent throughout the whole experience. As for those who managed to watch it without taking breaks and survived, all I can really say to you is “good job”. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go over my thoughts on the film itself. The story explores Sheeran’s career as a hitman for the Bufalino crime family and as a chief bodyguard for Hoffa, which is to be expected from a crime drama from Martin Scorsese. As I mentioned before, it had plenty of moments that were interesting, well-paced, and full of life. However, when it comes to its runtime and its dragged-out second act, they weren’t enough for me to call it a straight-up masterpiece. I enjoyed the story, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t think it’s as fantastic as a lot of critics are saying it was. On the bright side, I wasn’t part of the group of people that hated it. The main cast was one of the reasons for the film’s lively moments, most particularly De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci, who came out of his unofficial retirement to star in the film. These three actors had the right charisma and the right talent to portray their respective characters, and I wasn’t disappointed with the results. I was also impressed with the film’s smooth cinematography as well as the de-aging effects and the hair and makeup design. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film gets nominated for the latter because they’re really accurate with the film’s settings and the characters themselves. The film used de-aging CGI technology to make the main actors look like their young counterparts during specific scenes and, to be honest, the final result was pretty effective. I barely noticed the CGI effects on their faces throughout the entire film. Some people may not like it as much as I do, but I think it’s the right step forward for CGI technology in filmmaking.
Overall, “The Irishman” can be a chore for people who aren’t into dialogue-driven epics that lasts for more than three hours. However, from my own perspective, it’s the kind of chore that offers plenty of worthy rewards for those who stick around. While it didn’t pack enough strong punches in its storytelling to overcome its runtime, the film was able to provide some interest and enjoyability in its cast. For fans of the genre and Martin Scorsese himself, this is another well-deserved addition to his cinematic art collection. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had enough good moments for me to give this one a solid pass.