Originally published in “West Hawaii Today” December 6, 2016
“The Irishman” is a master class in acting, and one of the finest films in the already impressive canon of Martin Scorsese films featuring the tougher side of life (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull).
Oscar-winner Robert De Niro (The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman for the mob, reflecting on his life and in particular his relationship with fiery Teamster President, Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino (Scent Of A Woman, Dog Day Afternoon, The Godfather) and mob lawyer Russell Bufalino, played equally Oscar-caliber by, Joe Pesci (Goodfellas, Home Alone, My Cousin Vinny).
All three actors have moments that take your breath away as they navigate the complicated, serious world of crime and family. In this culture, it’s not uncommon for the husband to go off to work in the morning only to return home in the evening with blood all over his shirt. The mob hits in this film come often and are startling to watch.
“The Irishman” is also about the intimate relationships between dedicated men who speak the same language of loyalty. They lead messy lives that often lead to their own demise, and Scorsese is the first to remind you how each one ended.
This three-plus hour epic is not without an odd sense of tenderness, even compassion, highlighted by a scene where Pacino and Deniro have a candid conversation wearing pajamas before they turn in for the night. It’s like watching two schoolboys having a sleepover.
“The Irishman” is rated a strong R for violence, language, and a brutal sense of mob mentality. Yes, it’s a male-oriented story told from one man’s point of view, but the women are endlessly fascinating and are rarely given a chance to speak. Look for Anna Paquin as De Niro’s grown-up daughter, who speaks volumes of sadness and terror with only a few words.
Martin Scorsese has created a masterpiece that reflects his ability to inform and reflect. He is a master of visual storytelling, and it wouldn’t surprise me if “The Irishman”’ gets nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s good enough to win.
Is “The Irishman” as good as “Goodfellas” or “Casino?” The answer is, “Yes,” but at 209 minutes, it can be a challenge, and the experience is different.
“The Irishman” is currently available on Netflix with a short run in theaters and like last year’s “Roma,” is helping change the landscape of how we consume and consider feature films. We watched the film at home and never felt cheated.
- Gary Cogill