Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

The Irishman (2019)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons


A Scorsese epic. The fact that a movie this big was produced and released by Netflix is pretty interesting, a reflection of the state of the film industry today.

Vintage Scorsese. Mafia in the 70’s, about real characters and real histories, with a focus on realism instead of spectacle. There are spectacular moments, of course, with betrayals and violent assassinations, but Scorsese’s effort to keep things real and grounded keeps his scenes tense and his violence brutal. Voiceover from one of the trusted main characters and title cards showing what really happened to some of the people in his stories helps to make things even more real.

Period Italian music gives scenes that might otherwise be boring a certain energy. It’s this music combined with long, silky Steadicam shots that make sudden murders seem especially violent.

Props and signs help to set the period, but one of Scorsese’s greatest skills is casting to find actors who look the period and coaxing period-appropriate performances out of them. It’s always been remarkable how genuine Scorsese’s characters feel. Sure, there are some quirky characters, but they’re not over-the-top ridiculous Even his quirky characters are real, and that requires a director’s delicate touch.

A bit slow and long, and that seems to be the film’s greatest criticism. And I don’t disagree. In particular, I feel like the first third of the film could have been expedited. Several reviews suggest how the film can been consumed in several parts, but I’m not sure there’s a natural stopping point in the middle of the story for splitting it into two separate feature-length films. I could definitely see it as a mini-series of four or five episodes, though.

In any case, the star power keeps it going. This is an impressive cast, with Scorsese getting all of his favorite actors together one more time. De Niro shows that he can still pull off these kinds of movies. From Goodfellas and Casino to Meet the Parents and Dirty Grandpa and back to this, that’s pretty impressive. Didn’t realize Pesci had been pretty much retired for almost 20 years. Pacino fits in nicely, no surprise there. Romano is a nice addition. Paquin is notably silent, hardly seems worth it to have a recognizable actor in that role. Couldn’t they have gotten a nobody to play that part?

The aging effects were interesting, and I think they worked overall. But there were some moments when the body movements by these supposedly younger guys looked a bit old. And I’m just not sure about De Niro’s blue eyes, which looked less Irish and more like he had cataracts.

Lackluster ending. I guess most of the story had been told, but some graphics explaining how Sheeran lived out the rest of his life would have been informative.

Some press is calling this a swan song for De Niro and Scorsese. Is this really their last big picture?