The Irishman Movie Review


Although offering some of the greatest stories to come out of cinema, classic gangster movies are a thing of the past. Yes, The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas are widely-respected and studied by film students around the world. True, the Italian mob story has become almost its own genre, filled with tropes that risk making any new attempts in it stale. But in a time of witty superhero remarks and movies action-packed to the brim, there’s something unique to be found in the narratives of ambiguous characters showing both violence and remorse.

Director Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix drama brings that distinctive feeling back to the screen one more time. Tragic, reflective, and compassionate, The Irishman tells a personal story over a sprawling scale. Based on the best-selling book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, the movie is, more or less, based on a true story. It follows truck driver Frank Sheeran who works his way up to a top hit man in organized crime. While half of its appeal may be the history behind it, real-life events are pushed into the background, making way for the characters to be at the forefront of the story.

Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino – playing Frank Sheeran, Russell Bufalino, and Jimmy Hoffa – all have moments of greatness sprinkled throughout, and while De Niro makes himself known, Pesci and Pacino are the two who shine, playing parts that are distinctive in their large body of work. The three do a great job at depicting the passage of time, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, and while the de-aging effects that make the actors look younger are hit-or-miss, you can feel the longevity of the story taking place thanks to the great performances.

It seems the biggest star of the film is its director, Martin Scorsese, the maker of classic films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. Many stories like these seem to glamorize the life of the mob; here, Scorsese means to de-romanticize the lives gangsters lead. Through the 3+ hours of run-time, there are many great shots and pieces of dialogue.

There’s been concern about the film’s run time, clocking in at about 3-and-a-half hours long. This is mostly due to the amount of time it covers, spreading over 5 decades of the characters’ lives. The length is definitely there and I believe there were scenes that could have been cut; despite that, the ending is worth the time commitment, managing to bring the story to a satisfying and touching conclusion.