The Irishman centres around former mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as is starts off in a care home, where he’s talking to someone about his life, but who? Even now I’ve watched the film, I’m not entirely sure…
He talks about “painting houses” when he’s actually referring to whacking guys, in a film that shows his very beginnings, including being given tasks like putting an associate’s rival linen-washing company out of business by bombing them, and overall, it’s like Goodfellas meets Grand Theft Auto. Perhaps we need The Irishman: The Videogame!
Another situation comes about where he might get fired from his delivery job because his van’s empty when he breaks the seal on his truck and reveals that it’s empty, but then did he put the seal on when he started the delivery job in the first place? Just how ‘on the level’ is he? Well, would you trust a mob guy?
Even though Frank will skim a bit of money off the top and rip people off slightly, just to make ends meet and be comfortable for him, he soon realises he’s getting involved with increasingly dodgy people. One of these includes Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), cousing to his lawyer, Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano), and Russell is a guy who knows who it’s okay to whack, and fixes anything that needs to be done. Nothing gets done without his say so, but since you know he’s a major player, you’re left wondiering how his story will play out.
The Irishman also has a huge cast, some for whom we learn their eventual fate when they are introduced. For example, as we first see Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno, the picture pauses and the caption appears: “Angelo Bruno: shot in the head, sitting in his car outside his house, 1980.”
At this point, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way because the big news about this is that director Martin Scorsese and his crew have used CGI de-aging technology to… make a lot of them look younger. When this happens, I wish they’d show what year it’s meant to be as they jump around the timeline, since when you see Robert De Niro in different ages, we have no idea of the exact timescale between the two. However, we do see a sales receipt when the younger De Niro is in 1956, delivering meat.
And when he’s a young bus driver, it looks like a dodgy CGI scene from a videogame! Then it goes back to World War II, so he’s even younger!
You do get used to it before long, though. Plus, it feels less of an issue with Al Pacino because it’s been so long since he’s made a great film – and he seems reminiscent of his time in Scent of a Woman, but them out of him, De Niro and Joe Pesci, only De Niro is still making films regularly. Pesci long since quit to pursue a musical career, but only appears to have released albums in 1998 and 2019.
It’s about 45 minutes before Al Pacino comes into it as dodgy union boss Jimmy Hoffa, while a similarly doctored Stephen Graham appears as Anthony Provenzano – aka Tony Pro – another head honcho in the union. The film slows down a bit as it gets towards the middle as Hoffa goes to jail. However, the lull doesn’t last too long, and this is a very comfortable movie to sit back and enjoy. Yes, it’s long, but then think about how many TV boxsets you’ll binge upon these days.
Three-and-a-half hours is a crazy length for a movie, however, and I’m glad I didn’t see this in a cinema because it’ll look just as great on a big TV, and it’s unlikely you’ll watch the entire duration WITHOUT pausing anything – and I certainly had to pause when I made notes for my review!
Overall, though, The Irishman helps us to feel in very familiar territory, and I can see myself enjoying this just as much on future runs.
The Irishman is out now on Netflix.
Running time: 209 minutes
Release date: November 27th 2019
Format: 1.85:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K), Dolby Vision, Redcode RAW (8K), Super 35)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Producers: Troy Allen, Gerald Chamales, Robert De Niro, Randall Emmett, Gastón Pavlovich, Jane Rosenthal, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Irwin Winkler
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian
Novel: Charles Brandt
Music: Robbie Robertson
Frank Sheeran: Robert De Niro
Jimmy Hoffa: Al Pacino
Russell Bufalino: Joe Pesci
Peggy Sheeran: Anna Paquin
Chuckie O’Brien: Jesse Plemons
Anthony Provenzano: Stephen Graham
Carrie Bufalino: Kathrine Narducci
Robert F. Kennedy: Jack Huston
Felix ‘Skinny Razor’ DiTullio: Bobby Cannavale
Jerry Vale: Steven Van Zandt
Angelo Bruno: Harvey Keitel
Mary Sheeran: Aleksa Palladino
Anthony Salerno: Domenick Lombardozzi
Bill Bufalino: Ray Romano
Nurse: Dascha Polanco
Joseph ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo: Sebastian Maniscalco
Irene Sheeran: Stephanie Kurtzuba
Dolores Sheeran: Marin Ireland
Allen Dorfman: Jake Hoffman
Jake Gottlieb: Paul Ben-Victor
Sally Bugs: Louis Cancelmi
Connie Sheeran: Kate Arrington
The Coat Check Girl: Aly Mang
Maryanne Sheeran: Jennifer Mudge
Mob Girlfriend: Liz Celeste
Whispers: Paul Herman
Don Rickles: Jim Norton
The Manicurist: Sharon Pfeiffer
Phil Testa: Larry Romano
Josephine Hoffa: Welker White
Sina Essary Gallo: Margaret Anne Florence
Peggy Sheeran (7-11): Lucy Gallina
Barbara Hoffa: Rebecca Faulkenberry
Frank ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons: Gary Basaraba
Herself (archive footage): Jacqueline Kennedy
Himself (archive footage): John F Kennedy
Connie Sheeran (14-16): Jordyn DiNatale
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.