The Irishman - B
Rated R, 210 minutes
The vastly entertaining, superbly acted and clever "The Irishman" is one of the best films of the year and comes from Oscar-winning legend Martin Scorsese, who again makes an important crime film and probably one of the best of his storied career, along with "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas" and "The Departed." Scorsese, who knows a thing or two about mobster films, has "The Irishman" doesn't disappoint, except for a couple of flaws, namely that it goes on too long at 210 minutes.
In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Oscar-winner Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Oscar-winner Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Oscar-winner Al Pacino) -- a powerful Teamster tied to organized crime.
Seeing Pesci and De Niro together on screen after many years is like seeing two old friends, and they both deliver excellent turns, especially Pesci (brought out of retirement for the role) in a terrific performance, who exudes a calm, powerful presence. However, "The Irishman" most memorable turn is from Pacino, who with the exception of a couple of scenes, is energetic yet remarkably restrained.
"The Irishman" is based on the true exploits of Sheeran, who supposedly was responsible for the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, as detailed in the book "I Heard You Paint Houses" by Charles Brandt (the phrase itself means to kill a man, so the blood splatters like paint). The solid script is by Oscar-winner Steven Zaillian ("Schlinder's List" and some of other Scorsese films), and details Sheeran's work with Hoffa and his interactions with many famous mobsters, many of whom had an untimely death, as flashed on the screen each time one is introduced.
"The Irishman" works in large part because of the teamwork of Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and the large cast (Scorsese is top notch at staging gun battles and blood), but it also works because of many other first-rate elements, including the peppy score from Robbie Robertson, the flashy cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto, and all the detailed costumes, sets and vehicles, all of which evoke the '60s and '70s perfectly. The large, talented cast also includes Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, Jake Hoffman, and in a small but key part, Harvey Keitel.
A couple of minor flaws: at 210 minutes (or 3 1/2 hours), "The Irishman" is Scorsese's longest film, and though the film has enough entertaining moments to keep it moving along, you're likely to feel it; Scorsese again works with his longtime, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and they could've easily tightened it up, leaving some of it for a special director's cut. Much has also been made of the digital process to "de-age" its actors so they look younger; it's mostly a seamless success, though in others it's a minor distraction, particularly with De Niro.
There's much to love about "The Irishman": it's witty, enjoyable and well-made (and also Scorsese's most expensive film at a cost of $160 million), and will be seen much more come awards time. It's in limited release now and will be streaming on Netflix, who is distributing the film, around Thanksgiving.