The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

First, the big story concerning The Irishman was that it reunited some of Scorcese’s best actors and added Pacino to the mix. Then, every news article that came out was about the special effects and this weird, experimental de-aging process. Now, the third and final hot topic to be thrown into the zeitgeist one last time before the movie is slowly forgotten is the long running time. Yet, not a whole lot of people (except for here on LB of course) are talking about the actual film. The finished product is some of Scorcese and company’s best work ever.

For obvious reasons, I went into this thinking it would be in the vein of Goodfellas or Casino. There certainly are similarities, but if anything, this is more similar to the first two Godfathers. It’s a tale of epic proportions that has clearly cast the concept of time itself as the main character. It has violent moments, but uses them more sparingly like The Godfathers as well, and, despite its namesake, this movie is uber Italian. The first two Godfathers also brought out the best in Pacino. A whole lot of time has passed since the early 70s and Al’s over-the-top theatrics and loud, commanding voice have become parodies of themselves, but what he does here totally works. If Pacino played Hoffa twenty years ago before he was playfully mocked so much, it very well could have gone down as one of his best performances. Hoffa was a larger than life figure and Pacino’s presence is unquestionably larger than life. The actor actually had to tone it down a bit. I understand that in real life Hoffa was jumping up on the tables in the diner when he heard that JFK died (spoilers, JFK dies). Pacino just sits down and goes back to his ice cream. I’ve even made the joke that he is comparable to his crazy yet ever so fun portrayal of Dick Tracy’s nemesis, Big Boy Caprice. But I don’t care, it works here and not that it really even fucking matters much anymore, but Pacino jumping around like a madman and slurping down sundaes is Oscar worthy.

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro are at their best here, too. With the exception of the scene where he is beating up a store clerk and is supposed to be in his forties or so, but lurches around like a reanimated corpse instead, De Niro is fantastic. And Pesci plays a whole new and refined evil that we aren’t used to seeing. I think I might love it even more than his maniacal gangster characters. He also plays both young and old substantially better than anybody else in the movie. Even just the little things he does with his eyes are impactful. Him coming home quietly to his wife in the bloody shirt or him just sitting there while Harvey Keitel scolds De Niro are perfect examples of this little man’s genius. And that final scene with the bread and grape juice sealed the deal that he is one of the best of all time. I don’t even know or fucking care what his competition would be this awards season, just give them all to him. 

Despite my obvious hard on for a bunch of old white dudes, the story itself is worthy of five stars. Historical accuracies or inaccuracies hold absolutely no relevance for me in film. We are watching stories to entertain us and lucky for us, The Irishman entertains. It works on a grand scale involving the entire country just as well as it works on De Niro’s personal level (which ultimately pays off the most). It has more heart, emotion, and charm than I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Plus, Scorsese makes everything look and feel so real. The late 40s/early 50s feel exactly like they should and he unleashes some of his most iconic scenes ever. Pacino ordering his goons to raise the flag while the others in the background are half massed is comparable to some of his best sequences ever. And, how genius is it to have a long tracking shot just like in the offices of The Wolf of Wall Street or the gambling floors of Casino, but have it in a nursing home? That was badass and I’m still trying to comprehend all that it could or potentially should mean.

I’d hate to do what I just said I hated people doing, but I also want to talk about this film’s length. It’s like twenty minutes longer than an Avengers movie, yet everyone is losing their minds over it. Most people sit around and watch hours upon hours of TV series every single evening, but they’ll bitch and moan about sitting through this. I get it. Three and a half hours does look daunting and I will even decide what to watch based on the shortest running time quite often. Yet, The Irishman’s running time works. It’s engrossing and not one scene seemed to be filler. I wonder if there were real conversations between Netflix execs and Scorcese of them wanting him to split this up mini series style. They’ll get more of their trademark “buh boom” noises and logos in while audiences will be more inclined to give a first chapter a chance instead of the entire thing. I like that it’s not split up. If viewers can’t handle sitting around for three and a half hours and not looking at their phones, then watch this bitch in segments. Also, don’t listen to Scorcese. Watch it on your phone. Watch it on your iPad. Watch it however you can. Just don’t go into it with toxic, gossip bullshit on your mind instead of the anticipation of seeing some of cinema’s greatest making at least one more masterpiece.

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