“I heard you paint houses”
A calm and composed De Niro who can charmingly shoot his rival in cold blood to do his job of painting houses in red, a comical Joe Pesci who is hothead personified, a larger than life boss Harvey Keitel, an outspoken deadpan Al Pacino – one has seen the first three legends infusing life into wisest of ‘wisemen’ characters that many Scorsese films have revolved around. Al Pacino playing himself just another time is a welcome inclusion to this Cinematic Universe one would Marvel at. This trio of DeNiro-Pesci-Pacino is the heartbeat of Scorsese’s latest ‘The Irishman’.
Unlike his previous collaborations(read: Goodfellas, Casino) with De Niro and Pesci that feat. raw violence, Scorsese in The Irishman chooses to traverse a different path to present the killings – with sheer poise and glam. So, it is subtly conveyed that our wisemen have shot the rival as the focus shifts to random flowers on the street, instead of a body drenched in blood.
When one grows old to tell his stories, he may probably talk about his wife and children – but not in a Scorsese movie. The central character Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) here narrates the story of his past killings. This narration is in form of memories – making the movie tour back and forth in time under the hands of editor Thelma Schoonmaker – at times checking the box of flashbacks during a flashback. Frank, a WWII veteran, through his wise tactics eventually catches the eye of Italian mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Okay, a very reputed mob boss! (Pesci and his fans must not be hurt). Taking Frank under his wings, Russell introduces him to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who plays the Al Pacino of the National Teamsters Union. All goes fine for this trusted association until John F. Kennedy is elected as the President.
A narrator looking back at his ups and downs with an air of regret, case of success and infidelity, a daughter uncomfortable around her father due to his actions, and the eventual undying guilt due to final hit of morales – it couldn’t get more Scorsese than this. But, as all Scorsese gangster dramas always have their distinct element to emerge a winner – it finds the same in the conflict of mob and politics – particularly during the times of JF Kennedy as the President of USA.
While several questions are bound to be raised on the historical accuracy of political events depicted, none of them can be about the cast and direction department – where everything is top-notch, enough to meet the sky-high expectations of a viewer. A huge amount seems to be spent on the portrayal of the de-age VFXd wisemen, especially to make De Niro appear younger than the young Pesci and Pacino. Though sometimes, the overdone VFX makes them look like a steady rock, and it is noticeable. This is initially distracting, but the performances do ensure that it doesn’t become a con of a visual. Narducci as Bufalino’s wife Carrie has her moments, particularly during the car trip sequences. Kurtzuba as Frank’s wife Mary and Anna Pequin as Frank’s grown-up daughter Peggy get little to do, being mostly in the background. No significant improvement in the female characters’ screentime even now, still, hope shall not be lost!
Barring the female parts, everything in The Irishman takes its own good time to develop – the characters, the individual subplots, and the final blending of subplots done casually into one big story. The pace is slow but steady. The big picture thus emerges as a satisfying cinematic experience. As the end credits rolled, I realized how much I have missed watching the quintessential Scorsese storytelling on screen. I wonder if a collaboration of such ‘crème de la crème’ team would be possible again.
In a runtime of about 209 minutes, The Irishman is slightly long but surfaces as another feather in the hat of auteur Martin Scorsese. Buckling political history drama with his favorite themes of Italian mob life, money and love, personal and professional up-down, and final regret – he delivers his latest movie with sheer finesse. Keeping it centered around his favourite muse De Niro, Scorsese evidently hasn’t been able to get enough of him after all these decades – same holds for me as a cinephile.
Watch its trailer here: The Irishman (2019) Trailer – YouTube
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