Martin Scorsese remains one of the best American filmmakers alive with his dignity intact. Where his contemporaries have put down the camera or resigned themselves to monotony, he has only gotten better with age. He hit his stride with Goodfellas and year after year since he has put out some of the most memorable movies in history. People may not remember Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, but no one has forgotten Gangs of New York or The Departed. And in his 77th year, Scorsese brings it all full circle in a return to his mobster roots.
The Irishman is the culmination of his past work on the genre, cast with the actors that helped Scorsese achieve success. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a real-life hitman under Russ Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. Together they contend with Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino, a trucker union legend that disappeared in 1975. No one has yet found his remains or trace of what may have happened to him and Irishman attempts to shed some light of what could.
All the hallmarks of a Scorsese film are on display with notable changes. His signature fast editing is mostly non-existent with an emphasis on a slow, contemplative pace throughout. That is not to say the movie is not as snappy or humorous as his previous work. Irishman is serious, but not without cunning Italian wit similar to Goodfellas and Casino. It is a movie that needs to take its time or you miss the whole point, with many long takes that hold on shots.
Irishman is a long film, the longest in Scorsese’s filmography from what I can tell. Almost all of that time is spent making the characters appear human and real. Regardless of the subject matter, whether the characters are mobsters or monsters, they are written and acted in a way that you can almost excuse their crimes. Costello from Departed may have been a paranoid psychopath, but it was very easy to like him. The same can be said for Nicky from Casino.
Sheeran, Russ, and Hoffa are given about as much depth and personality as characters from a long-form television show. Before the movie is over you feel like you have known them for years. Despite all their criminal activity, you care about them, and want to see where they will end up. You have so much fun and want more that the near four-hour runtime feels like nothing.
Those characters are the heart and soul of The Irishman and you should just go watch it without me having to explain more. While I was thankful to have the chance to see the film in a theater, it was always going to come to Netflix. Everyone and their grandmother has Netflix and they have already seen it by now. Unless you live in a foreign country that has restrictions on Internet, you have no reason to not watch this movie. Otherwise, you’re a mook.