In Brief: One of this year’s best — if not THE best — and certainly one of the most ambitious movies in a decade or more. This one is simply amazing.
The Irishman does a short theater run this week and next, and then begins streaming on Netflix on November 29th. In my opinion, skip Netflix and see this in a theater.
Martin Scorsese’s film takes a hypothetical look at what happened to Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa and discloses who might have killed him and why. It’s based on Charles Brandt’s book, I Hear You Paint Houses.
That’s the phrase used by mobsters when someone wants someone killed. In this case the killing was Hoffa. And a bunch of others if mafia painter Frank Sheeran is to be believed.
I say hypothetical. So do some experts. Others think this might be the truth. And it really doesn’t matter. True or not this is fascinating material. Supposedly, Sheeran confessed to Brandt that he killed Hoffa. Brandt then wrote a book on that confession and — judging by the length of his 384 page book and the 3 1/2 hour movie — a lot of others.
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star. De Niro is Sheeran. The movie begins with by explaining how he got involved with organized crime doing smaller, but important jobs. As the story progresses, so does Sheeran’s career. He moves through the ranks into tougher assignments and into different kinds of involvement.
Sheeran begins to meet, interact with and protect people that are more important. The most important is Jimmy Hoffa.
The Irishman is the story of how Sheeran’s life and how it involved Hoffa. It outlines how Hoffa came to power and the intimate details of their best-pal friendship and how Sheeran killed him and what happened after. You meet Sheeran’s family, his friends, those he killed and those that were killed during the story and after. Scorsese gives you information on goon after goon as the movie progresses.
Pacino plays Hoffa.
Scorsese’s casting is pitch perfect for the story. The best actor pick for 2019 is going to be a tough one. I say this considering how good Joaquin Phoenix was in Joker. De Niro and Pacino — both great actors — have never been better. Emphasize never. And in some ways this is the best both have ever been.
De Niro plays Sheeran like the perfect soldier who is willing to do anything for his bosses. The organization comes first. It comes above family and above all. He’s a man of few words, quiet and dangerous, and is especially so when crossed or ordered kill. This true even when ordered to kill a very good, and very close friend. It’s always business.
Never anything less.
Pacino does Hoffa like a loose cannon who is unable to grasp the danger he put himself in by defying the mob. He rants and raves and preaches to anyone within his hearing. Pacino’s Hoffa is a natural leader with gunslinger instincts. It’s classic Pacino and Pacino at his best.
Both actors give performances packed with power and passion.
Their co-stars aren’t far behind. This is the best Joe Pesci has been, too. Instead of coming off like an angry chipmunk, Pesci plays it low key. He’s the man in control, unreachable by law, untouchable by his enemies. Pesci has a very good shot at some best supporting actor nominations and maybe even a win or two.
This year’s best picture — like best actor — is going to be tough to pick. I’ve seen several so far that are a toss up. The Irishman is one of my group of favorites. It’s a phenomenal movie and a very ambitious project. And like all great movies, it starts with a screenplay.
Steve Zaillian’s script from settings to events to dialogue is mind-boggling. It’s even more of a mind blow to imagine the difficulty of writing a screenplay this detailed and this long. However, as Zaillian proved with the ultra-long Schindler’s List for Steven Spielberg and with The Gangs of New York for Scorsese, he’s definitely up to the task.
This is a great script that helps feed a superb group of acting talent and helps feed a superb director.
Scorsese’s storytelling skills have never been sharper, nor has he ever had — in his long and storied career — a script as good as this one. He makes the most of the opportunity and patiently tells Sheeran’s tale.
And it’s a tall tale and a long one. He covers a couple of decades of crime and — in places — some of the history of this country and gives this most fascinating version of Hoffa’s rise and fall, and that of Sheeran, the treatment it deserves.
If you see it in a theater — and you really should — The Irishman runs a bladder busting 3:29. I say you really should this in a theater because movies ought to be seen on larger screens. But most of you won’t. You’ll catch The Irishman on Netflix. Streaming there is not a problem. Hit the pause button, do your thing and you’re back in business.
The Irishman at a theater is a whole other story.
I saw the movie at a screening set for 10 in the morning Friday. I get up early and usually drink at least a pot of coffee by 10. All through the screening I’m thinking, “Martin, Gone with the Wind” had an intermission. The Ten Commandments had an intermission. Even Ben Hur had an intermission.” Needless to say, I didn’t make it through the whole film and neither did most of the other critics at the screening.
Martin — your movie needed an intermission! It’s the only complaint I have — or anyone attending that screening — had about your movie.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Alaska Palladino, Kathrine Narducci, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons
Rated R for mature themes. I could throw out adjectives all day and not quite be able to describe just how good this movie is. See it for yourself and DEFINITELY see it. One of the year’s best. Give it a 5 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.