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The Irishman

NETFLIX (2019)


Director: Martin Scorsese


Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel

Three and a half hours...

Yes, it's a long runtime, however, isn't it all about the quality of the end product? Martin Scorsese is a man who knows how to deliver and with The Irishman he had all of the necessary tools at his disposal. De Niro. Pacino. Pesci. Big budget. The backing of a streaming juggernaut. It's a recipe for surefire success, no?

Actually, yes. The Irishman is very good. In fact, it's excellent. Scorsese has managed to blend all of the ingredients together to create something grand and epic. The overall story follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro) as he gets acquainted with influential gangster Russell Buffalino (Pesci) and, after working his way through the ranks, goes on to work with Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), a man seemingly dripping in power and with...plenty of handy connections. Scorsese uses every minute of the big ol' runtime to tell his story (adapted from I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt)  and, whilst it didn't need to be as long as it is, The Irishman never feels as long as it should - the power performances and engaging plot keep things ticking over nicely. This is far from an expensive reunion for some of the genres greatest performers, the trio of De Niro, Pacino and the returning Joe Pesci are superb in their roles - Pesci is especially great in a quieter, impactful role that allows him to provide a superb gravitas to his character. Much was said of getting the gang(sters) back together but their performances in The Irishman prove all the talk was worth it. Much was also made of the de-aging technology used to bring youthful versions of the leads into the narrative and the effects simply look great - well worth blowing the budget through the roof for. The main issue with the de-ageing technology isn't the look, it's the fact that bodies can't be de-aged literally - there were a few moments when the young De Niro lumbered about in a more...aged fashion (especially in one fight scene) and it produced a jarring visual. That, however, isn't a detraction from the movie itself, just an observation.

Whilst there's plenty of gunfights and blood splattering, what Scorsese delivers is a tale of ageing, of how one's actions can affect those closest to them and also mortality. We're all taking that slow march to death and Scorsese depicts it tragically and effectively. This is where Anna Paquin's quiet Peggy (Sheeran's daughter) comes into her own in a chilling, understated performance. The final act of the movie goes to places that similar movies could only dream of going - or at least pulling off the feat half as well - and this is where The Irishman is able to stand above the crowd. The human emotion that's poured into the story elevates the material above being simply just a gangster flick. After the deadly serious Silence, The Irishman feels more like Scorsese having fun (at times) in a genre he is so accustomed to and it's a fine addition to his personal canon.

The Irishman is a tour-de-force on all counts. The leading trio are magnificent throughout, Scorsese directs the hell out of every scene, it looks great and it sounds great too. The runtime is irrelevant as The Irishman is that good - Scorsese has delivered a real marvel of a movie.

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November 28th 2019

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