Martin Scorsese’s forte is the epic gangster movie, and he is arguably the master of the genre. Adding another first-rate film to his cinematic belt, the director yet again illustrates why he is one of the greatest directors of all time with “The Irishman.”
The hallmark of a truly ionic film director is that you can instantly recognize their work by the style of a movie alone, and from the opening scene it’s clear this is a Scorsese picture. From the long tracking shots to the editing choices (by longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker) to the New York set narrative, Marty Scorsese’s trademark visual and storytelling style is stamped on this film from the get-go.
This biographical crime thriller follows an elderly Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he recalls his checkered past. Frank worked for the infamous Bufalino crime family and carried out many of their most violent hits on rivals. He also claims some involvement with his friend Jimmy Hoffa and his mysterious disappearance in 1975.
This is an epic drama that packs in a bit too much story into an extended 3-hours-plus runtime, yet it’s so compellingly told that it never outstays its welcome. There’s a quietly menacing suspense that’s told in the most engrossing way that it never feels slow. This really is a brilliant example of near-perfect storytelling, editing, directing, and acting.
The cast is a testosterone fest of Scorsese regulars, and the director draws primo performances from each of his actors, be it one of the leads or quiet supporting performances (from Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano). In a film with so many heavy hitters, it’s difficult to pick one standout.
De Niro makes you want to root for Frank. He brings a charming duality of sympathy and likability to the character, which almost makes you forget Frank’s total lack of morality. Joe Pesci steals every scene in a film packed with star turns, and he absolutely runs away with the entire movie. Al Pacino (as Jimmy Hoffa) looks like the weak link, but that should only be taken as a testament to the outrageous amount of talent in this cast.
Much has been said about the de-aging technology in this film, but it’s done so well that it’s never distracting. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to revisit a young De Niro and Pesci, and no lookalike actors could ever take their place in an epic story like this.
The film is incredibly well directed in the smallest details, and I am in awe of Scorsese’s skill as a filmmaker. We all know he is one of the greatest of the greats, but how awesome is it to see a 77-year-old director still working and producing at the top of his game?