I believe a true film critic should stick with theatrically released films that anyone among the public can go out and view. However, it’s been a while since I looked at a straight–up crime movie, so we’re going to be taking a look at the Netflix original movie “The Irishman.”
Based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, the story focuses on the life of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), an alleged mafia hitman who did dirty work for the Bufalino Crime Family. From embezzling cargo to assassination, Frank Sheeran has seen it all as we follow him during the biggest events in American History and witness the crooked dealings happening from behind the scenes. The election of John F. Kennedy, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, along with the rise, fall, and disappearance of Labor Union Leader, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The film features an all-star cast: Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham and Paul Herman.
When it comes to crime dramas and gangster films, there are only a handful of filmmakers out there who know how to weave a strong narrative about a story of notorious and morally questionable characters and make them the protagonist that the audience follows. Francis Ford Coppola has done it before, Quentin Tarantino has done it numerous times, and Martin Scorsese, the director behind “The Irishman,” has done it once again. Some of you might be familiar with Scorsese’s work; nothing substantial, just “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “The King of Comedy,” and some obscure film no one’s heard of called “Goodfellas.”
Relax, I’m joking. You can’t call yourself a ‘Film Critic’ if you aren’t familiar with the classics such as these. All jokes aside, you can surmise that Martin Scorsese pretty much made Robert De Niro’s career. So, it’s no surprise that Scorsese brought him back to star in his newest crime drama. Believe it or not, however, the film was originally going to be a theatrical release, but Martin Scorsese couldn’t find a studio in Hollywood that would back his project. I’m not one to comment on the dealings of Hollywood, but whoever says no to a film with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro might need to have their head evaluated. Fortunately, the CEO of Netflix saw the potential of Scorsese’s idea and gave him the backing needed to complete his project.
Well, it’s Hollywood’s loss and Netflix’s gain because “The Irishman” is a phenomenal triumph and true successor to Scorsese’s crime drama filmography. The film has a “Goodfellas” vibe to it as our main protagonist narrates the story for the audience, giving us a behind the scenes look of the crime life and explaining certain bits about their crooked dealings. The three titans of the film—Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci—they all knock it out of the ballpark and send it flying to the moon. What’s funny is that Joe Pesci came close to not even appearing in the film. No joke, when Scorsese approached Joe Pesci to come out of retirement to star in his project, Pesci refused. It was only after Scorsese asked him about fifty times when Joe Pesci finally agreed. And you thought it was annoying when your kids bugged you to borrow the car?
Seeing as the film is about mafia dealings and mob hits, you might be wondering how much action and violence is in the film? Believe it or not, the action is probably the quickest thing about the movie. There’s no long shootouts, no big action scene, just wham, bam, and the hit’s complete. Which is something I found clever. This isn’t a Tarantino project where the violence is gory and prolonged. It’s just putting the target down, then moving along. The bulk of the film is more focused on the dialogue and relationship between the characters as our main star Frank Sheeran builds a rapport with his mafia ties and Jimmy Hoffa, while carrying out the wishes of both parties. That is, until his allegiance is put to the test when Hoffa and the mob soon have a falling out.
One big factor that must be commented on is the length of this film. “The Irishman” clocks in at 3 hours and 29 minutes, not only making it Martin Scorsese’s longest film to date, but quite possibly one of the longest crime dramas put to film. Unless you have a big movie night planned, or if you’re a film critic who had to see the whole thing in one sitting for a review, then you may want to take a break from the film when watching it. Then again, once you get into the story, it’s kind of hard to stop until you’ve seen the movie all the way through. You have been warned.
“The Irishman” is rated R for pervasive language and strong violence. There’s not much else to exposit about the film, other than if you’re a fan of crime movies, then “The Irishman” needs to be put on your must-see list. Just one bit of warning, however. Don’t expect a happy ending. If crime stories and Scorsese’s films have shown us anything, is that there’s no rainbow waiting at the end of the gangster life. Regardless, the final score for Martin Scorsese’s latest film is an outstanding 8.5 out of 10.
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.