The Irishman: Another Martin Scorsese Masterpiece

Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) in THE IRISHMAN. Courtesy of Netflix.

The Irishman utilizes current de-aging technology but the film is another epic masterpiece in filmmaking from Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

Netflix may have released Roma last year but The Irishman is its biggest test yet.  With a legendary filmmaker at the helm, it shows that Netflix isn’t playing around.  Scorsese is a legend in the industry–this goes without saying.  The only question now is will those among the old guard consider this film during awards season.  Or will Netflix be punished because it won’t get the typical three-month theatrical release?  News flash:  the film shouldn’t be punished.  How many other studios would take this kind of chance?  I don’t know of many.  It’s not the traditional big-budget affair.  The only reason why this film is so expensive is because of the visual effects technology.

Steven Zallian’s screenplay tells the film through the eyes of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro).  Frank would eventually serve as something of a bodyguard to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).  He’s also a hitman.  The film also depicts how the mob worked to get John F. Kennedy elected president in 1960.  Funny enough, the film also shows then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy going after the Teamsters.  Most of Frank’s career doesn’t happen without meeting Pennsylvania mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci).  Without Russell, Frank would never have worked together with Hoffa.

Martin Scorsese is no stranger to organized crime when it comes to cinema.  This is the same filmmaker who gave us Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, and The DepartedThe Irishman is a film that is straight up his alley as a filmmaker and he delivers.  Not only does Joe Pesci come out of retirement to work on the film but we’re getting a cinematic first: Scorsese directing Pacino on screen!

I can go on and on about the plot but honestly, you’re better off seeing it with your own eyes.  There were times in which I felt the film was dragging a bit but this may have been because of seeing the film after a long flight.  I don’t recommend watching The Irishman after a four-hour flight.  Making matters worse, the screening that I attended started over a half hour late.  This is a lot of sitting for one day!

I came out of this film being blown away by what I saw on screen.  What the ILM crew was able to achieve in visual effects technology is an achievement in its own right.  It’s not just the de-aging but you have legends such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci playing characters that are easily 30-40 years younger than their current age.  The film itself stretches 1949-2000 with a 1975 road trip accounting for some decent screen time.  Imagine looking at De Niro, Al Pacino, and Ray Romano standing side by side and all looking the same age.  It isn’t only that this happens during them film but that you’re left going, Is this really happening?!?

This is certainly a film that makes you think about what happened to Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.  We all knew that he disappeared suddenly.  But what we’ve never been able to find out is what happened to his body.  The film presents a possible scenario of how this came to be.  This is but just one of the questions we’re left asking ourselves.

I’m not saying that The Irishman marks the end of the line for Scorsese’s filmmaking career.  If it does, this film is certainly a high not to end a legendary career.  The film certainly has something to say about aging and reflecting on one’s life.  As the camera pulls back on the final shot at the end, one can’t help but wonder if it’s the last time that we see De Niro in a Scorsese film.

DIRECTOR:  Martin Scorsese
SCREENWRITER:  Steven Zallian
CAST:  Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Paul Herman, Gary Basaraba, Marin Ireland

The Irishman held its LA premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatres.  Netflix opens The Irishman in theaters on November 1 and streaming on November 25, 2019. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.