Friday, November 15, 2019

The Irishman

Director Martin Scorsese assembles several familiar faces in examining the life of Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (Robert De Niro). While the structure of the film is a tad odd, flashbacks within flashbacks, the story (adapted from Charles Brandt's book) slowly peels the onion of Sheeran's life and his close connection to both Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

Despite it's 209-minute running time, there's little I would cut from Steven Zaillian's screenplay, although an argument could be made for trimming the outer layer of the film focused on Sheeran's elderly years. However, even that plays into the film's larger narrative about what kind a man the Irishman was and the toll of living the life he did took both on himself and his family.

While there some minor issues (such as De Niro not exactly moving like a young man in the earliest flashbacks), the story Scorsese weaves is a fascinating one that includes some pleasant surprises along the way (such as casting Pesci against type as the level-headed negotiator of the group).

Mob stories aren't my favorite genre, but The Irishman succeeds by offering a lengthy, tragic character study of a man well-respected in his world while also focusing on his two greatest friendships which, when they come at odds, will ratchet up the tension and provide the turning point in the Irishman's life. Putting his trust in his actors and subject matter, Scorsese can simply let the story unfold, nudging here or there to foreshadow or highlight certain moments. The Irishman isn't a spectacle, it's a slow burn of a tale that is worth the time it takes to properly savor. It's violent, but it neither criticizes nor glamorizes the violence surrounding Sheeran's life. It is simply a part of him and the world he lives in.

That doesn't mean the movie is without memorable moments. Far from it, The Irishman delivers both loud and quite sequences that audiences can mull over long after the final credits have rolled. Nor is the melancholy-tinged film without its humorous moments (my favorite being the notion of an entire armory under one of the city's bridges). The film will soon be available on Netflix, but if you have a chance to see the movie in a theater (it's getting a limited release in select cities) I'd recommend not missing out on the opportunity to experience one of Scorsese's best films on the big screen.

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