Despite the recent increase in nonsense released into theaters, 2019 is proving to be one of the best years in film in recent memory. “The Irishman” reunites illustrious director, Martin Scorsese, with a trio of legendary actors, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, for another turn at the crime genre. It follows the life of mob hitman, Frank Sheeran (De Niro), and his relationships with the head of the Bufalino crime family, Russell Bufalino (Pesci), and Teamsters union president, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). When I say “follows the life,” I truly mean the extent of Frank Sheeran’s life because this movie is 210 minutes of densely packed scenes, spanning from Frank’s years fighting in World War II to his deathbed. The major buzz surrounding this movie is how the three major actors had been de-aged to look younger for the majority of the film because this film is telling an almost 65 year-long story. Sure, this movie is long, but it’s a Martin Scorsese masterpiece that is one of the year’s finest films.
Without much thought, it’s overly obvious that De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, are all at the very top of their games, especially a career-best performance from Joe Pesci. These three are Hollywood icons not because of their star status, but because of how many years they have been consistently been giving great performances. It is great to finally see De Niro and Pacino back in a film by a respected filmmaker who knows how to get the most from his actors. The relationship between Frank and Jimmy is wholly organic and the emotional crux of the movie. The entire second act is focused on getting the viewer to care and believe in their friendship beyond the work they do for each other.
Joe Pesci, as I mentioned, is on the next level in this film. He isn’t playing the loud and witty Tommy DeVito from “Goodfellas,” but an older, more reserved mob leader who always has the ball in his court because of the respect he’s attained. You don’t see the beginnings of Russell Bufalino mainly because it isn’t his story, but because of Pesci’s on-screen presence, you immediately feel his power when he enters the frame. Among the award-worthy performances in the film, Joe Pesci’s is certainly the standout.
Martin Scorsese is a master of direction. He’s a legend who has never made a bad film and has an incredibly wide variety of films in his catalog. He is the master of the crime genre, yet “The Irishman” doesn’t feel like the traditional Scorsese crime flick. Unlike the glorified and stylized “Goodfellas,” “The Irishman” doesn’t treat these characters like heroes or utilize their hijinx and crimes as action scenes or comedic moments. This is a very raw film where every bullet fired carries significant weight to the story and characters. It feels like a very new take on the genre but a welcome change that values smaller, quiet conversations over loud, cuss-filled rants. I can’t say I enjoyed watching this movie more than some of Scorsese’s earlier work, like “Goodfellas,” but I can say that “The Irishman” has left the strongest, most meaningful impression on me. I saw the film almost a week ago and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about “The Irishman.”
It’s incredibly hard to put into words why you should see “The Irishman” because there are just too many things that make it great. If a Martin Scorsese crime film, with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, doesn’t already have you hooked, I’m not sure what will. “The Irishman” is one of my favorites of the year and one of Scorsese’s best since “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The movie is in limited theaters at the moment but will be on Netflix on Nov. 27, so definitely check it out then.