The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

Based on Charles Brandt's true crime novel, "I Heard You Paint Houses," [i.e. a mob hit-man], this gritty, meditative (but fast-paced) film tells the well researched story of Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (a possibly career capping role for Robert de Niro). Sheeran was an assassin and enforcer for the Italian mob, who is thought by the FBI to have offed Teamster ex-President Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), whose body was never found. The film is a 3 1/2 hour epic film noir that is arguably the supreme achievement of director Martin Scorsese's career of making classic mobster film noirs.

The film's casting and craftsmanship are superb (including great cinematography and steady-cam work by Rodrigo Prieto, a surprisingly original score by The Band's Robbie Robertson, and 309 separate scenes featuring authentic period production design over the several decades that the film covered.) But the interesting technical achievement was a groundbreaking multi-camera special effect which effectively de-aged the actors (portraying their younger selves to some degree.) It worked to the point that eventually it stopped being a special effect and just looked real.

I feel like making a special shout-out for the performance of Joe Pesci, brought out of semi-retirement to play the vital role of Russ Buffalino, Sheeran's friend and a mafia fixer. In a cast of superlative actors, many of them Scorsese regulars, Pesci stood out for me. But probably Scorsese's greatest achievement (along with that of his editor Thelma Schoonmaker) was that the film, for all its length without intermission, never slowed down or allowed my interest to flag. This high-budget Netflix film will probably work fine as a streaming experience; but it sure looks great on the big screen!

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