Yojimbo's Movie Review of The Irishman (2019)

Rating of

The Irishman (2019)

"The Irishman" by Yojimbo
Yojimbo - wrote on 12/18/19

The Irishman is a gangster epic centred upon the life of an Irish truck driver who rises through the ranks of organized crime to become the right hand man of notorious union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Best described as a cross between Goodfellas and JFK, The Irishman reunites many of the familiar faces from the acclaimed gangster classics of his past, as well as adding the current crop of screen heavies such as Stephen Graham and Bobby Canavale from Boardwalk Empire. As such it’s a positive smorgasbord of mobsters and with Scorsese’s heritage, it has a lot to live up to. And because of this, despite the heavyweight cast and interesting subject matter I did have a few problems with it. Firstly, the sheer age of its stars. De Niro, Pesci and to a lesser extent Pacino are very much showing their age in this film although obviously, when their characters are “age appropriate” it works really well. Unfortunately the de-aging technology that has been successful in the past is showing its limits; it may be able to iron out some facial wrinkles but De Niro always has the build, gait and demeanor of a much older man than he is supposed to be portraying – this is particularly noticeable in the scenes depicting violence – and so he lacks the physical presence and charisma that marked his earlier career. In fact more often than not I was struggling to work out how old he was supposed to be in any one scene. This also enables a slightly more spritely Pacino to steal pretty much every scene they share. The de-ageing doesn’t work at all on Pesci who looks like a senior in every scene in the film, even when his is supposed to be middle-aged and as such his performance is so low key as to seem almost phoned in compared to his work on the likes of Goodfellas and Casino.

All of this adds to my second issue – its sheer length. This is never a complaint I’ve had about Scorsese before, but The Irishman is too long. Perhaps with more dynamic performances by age appropriate actors for their younger personas this would not have been an issue, but the lethargy of the elderly protagonists makes the film feel more drawn out than it should.

Despite these criticisms, The Irishman is a very well made gangster movie from the old school. It’s just not in the same league as some of Scorsese’s best…but then again, not much is.

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