With films like The Godfather and Goodfellas it’s no wonder epic crime films have become an important staple within popular culture. Not only do they deliver unique stories, but they can also show a much more historical aspect of the genre. Living in 2019, it’s quite captivating to see what life was like through what the film decides to depict. They also focus on themes such as loyalty, brotherhood, and what a person is willing to do to gain power. These themes and so much more are shown in Martin Scorsese’s newest film, The Irishman.
The Irishman, which is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) a former truck driver who becomes involved with the Bufalino crime family. Frank meets Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) while making a delivery for the butcher shop he works for. That encounter leads to Frank being hired by a local gangster (Bobby Cannavale) to personally deliver the best steaks he has. After being found out by the butcher shop owner, Frank’s sued for theft but is saved by Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano), Russell’s cousin. From there, Frank starts to do work for Russell, which ultimately leads him to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the leader of a labor union. As he starts climbing the ranks of the crime family, Frank realizes just how dangerous this world can truly be.
One of the most recurring complaints I’ve seen about the film has to do with how long it is. With the official runtime of three hours and thirty
One of the main elements that the film focuses on is the bond between Frank and Jimmy. While their relationship starts as just another job for Frank, it quickly turns into a brotherly bond that I was not expecting. Frank’s rapid rise within the Bufalino crime family has quite an effect on his friendship with Jimmy, which the film does an incredible job portraying. The more that Frank becomes involved, the bigger the strain it puts on their friendship. De Niro and Pacino play off each other so well that I got a sense of just how close these two characters were. The development of their friendship makes the ending of the film much more powerful and it definitely caught me off guard.
As with any film that decides to include historical elements, it brings up the topic of how authentic these events and characters were in the film. It can be assumed that the goal of the film wasn’t to be authentic in terms of how certain events play out, but to me, it feels like it tarnishes the importance of said events. Similarly to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Scorsese takes liberty in changing what actually happened in regards to the big event near the end of The Irishman. It was a great pay-off in emotion, but the event itself is still something that remains a mystery. It doesn’t make sense to switch factual events to simply fit what the film is trying to portray.
After the film finishes, I was surprised that there was an additional video of Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino discussing the making of The Irishman. One of the things that they talked about was how there were multiple cameras with three lenses that were used to film the three actors at different ages. Though this is a fairly new technique, I was surprised by how authentic to their younger selves they all looked throughout the film. The transition to different ages was noticeable, but it didn’t disrupt the overall flow of the film. Although younger actors could have been cast to play Frank, Jimmy, and Russell, the essence of who these characters were would have been dramatically different.
Overall, I enjoyed The Irishman. I’m not too familiar with Scorsese’s other films, but I was able to see just how incredible of a filmmaker he is. I will surely be checking out some of the other films that he has directed. As for The Irishman, even though it’s extremely long, the way in which it depicts the themes of brotherhood and loyalty is superb. De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci bring these characters to life in a way that I would have never expected.
The Irishman is now streaming on Netflix and also playing in certain cinemas.
even though it’s extremely long, the way in which it depicts the themes of brotherhood and loyalty is superb.