The Irishman is the latest film released by Netflix, directed by Martin Scorsese starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. When I first heard about this movie, I obviously was very excited for it with its incredible cast and Scorsese behind the camera. But after learning this would be a Netflix movie I automatically thought this must not be a very good movie. At the time Netflix TV had some fairly good shows airing, but their film department was suffering. I didn’t like any of their movies they had put out themselves. It wasn’t until Roma was released last year that the whole Netflix movie idea started to change my mind. Netflix proved themselves to the world and the Academy that they were serious about their films, and they were rewarded with a bevy of awards at last year’s Academy Awards. This year Netflix is now, in my opinion, one of the leading horses in the Best Picture race with The Irishman. Martin Scorsese’s mob epic far exceed my expectations and completely blew me away.
This is not your typical Scorsese/De Niro gangster pic. Yes it has the harsh violence we’ve come to expect from a Scorsese film and it does follow a very similar type of people portrayed in films like Goodfellas or Casino, but it is completely different in the ways the characters are explored. Goodfellas and a lot of Scorsese’s films are about excess and the consequences of living such a high and glamorous life of crime. The Irishman is viewed from a much more mature aspect. The film is highly reflective as the story is told through the narration of Robert De Niro’s character as an old man recounting his life as a hitman and his possible involvement with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The film touches on themes of toxic masculinity and the regretful nature of choices made by your younger self that seemed like the right decision in the moment but maybe be the cause of your pain now.
Robert De Niro has not been this good in years. He feels so natural in this role, he never once feels like he’s acting. He completely inhabits the role. De Niro shows an incredible amount of restraint and plays a completely believable character. This was Al Pacino’s first collaboration with Scorsese and it makes me wish we had gotten more from the two of them together. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, a loud and larger than life character, but this is what Pacino does so well. You want to see him yell and shout and point his finger at someone and swear at them. That’s what we’ve come to expect and love from Pacino. Joe Pesci who came out of retirement for this role knocks it out of the park. This is the performance he should go out with. His character of Russell is not like Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, this is a quiet, chilling performance. He is so calm and relaxed throughout the whole film, but there was an edge to him that it felt like he could snap at any moment. This is some of the best work from three living legends.
One of the biggest things that I was cautiously nervous about was the deaging effect they were going to be using on the main actors. Let’s face it, these actors ain’t no spring chicken anymore, so to pull off a character who is supposed to be in his late 40’s can be a hurdle to overcome. The visual effects and deaging process are practically flawless. I noticed it for about a scene, after that I completely forgot about it. The effect was so convincing and the story was that engaging that I never once was distracted by it. It got to a point where I couldn’t even tell anymore if what I was seeing was the actor or them with the visual effect on them. It was that seamless.
Martin Scorsese is pushing 80 years old in a few years now and he is still making Rock n Roll. The amount of energy and creativity he puts in his films has not wavered his entire career. His stories are just as engaging and captivating as they were back in the ’70s. He clearly has not lost his touch, with very few missteps. This is a three and a half-hour film, but it never felt that long. The time went by so quick, that’s how entertaining this film is. This is practically a three and a half-hour film about characters talking and thinking and planning, and yet it is so entertaining. Thelma Schoonmaker’s (a long-time editor of Scorsese’s) editing is quick and consistently had me engaged with what was coming next in this complex story. Scorsese takes time to let his characters think and reflect. The film will hold on scenes of silence and let us stew in the reaction De Niro is giving, letting us think and develop with him. This should be a very slow-moving movie with all the scenes that take their time to explore what their characters are thinking and feeling, but it’s not. The Irishman is relentlessly fast-paced and thoroughly riveting from start to finish.
The Irishman is everything you want from a mobster movie directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. Netflix is having a stellar year, and there are still two films from them that I’m very excited to watch. I never thought that I would say this, but Netflix feels like the right home for this movie. I would have loved to experience this movie in a movie theatre, but that’s only going to be fun for us film buffs. For most people, the run time would scare them away, but at home and that easily accessible, they can turn it on and take breaks if needed. This film will be viewed by so many more people because it is on Netflix. I loved The Irishman, Scorsese still has got it. I can not wait to revisit this one.