Ok, let’s address the elephant on the page. The running time for this latest Scorsese masterpiece is well over three hours. Do you emerge from the theatre feeling like it is three and a half hours of your time you can’t get back? On the contrary, The Irishman is easily a riveting, edge of your seat story. Not to mention the fact, this will probably be the final time we see Pesci, DeNiro and Pacino onscreen together directed by Martin Scorsese. It is cinematic Hollywood history in the best way possible.
Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) has an unexpected meeting with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) that changes the trajectory of his life and career as a powerful teamster member serving with Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa, during a re-election campaign disappeared, has yet to resurface or there being any trace what happened to him. That is until now.
Based on Charles Brandt’s book, ‘I Heard You Paint Houses,’ widely accepted as factual, in which Sheeran confessed to more than 25 murders, including Hoffa’s, provides some career best performances from all three of its leading men. De Niro as Sheeran is understated, precision acting and a calming contrast to Al Pacino’s volcanic yet vulnerable portrayal of Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa. But, for me, Joe Pesci, who came out of retirement for this film, is the standout. His cool, menacing portrayal of Russell is a performance we have never seen from him. Especially evident anytime he has a scene where Sheeran’s daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin) is involved. As filmgoers, we are so used to seeing Pesci as an over-the-top caricature of himself, that watching him step into a different chapter of artistic maturity.
Beautifully shot and perfectly invoking a pivotal period of American history in the 1950’s right down to the musical soundtrack. Of course, the other elephant on the page is the use of CGI methods used to make the actors youthful. It is daunting at first, but you soon forget as you are drawn into the story and how it plays out.
Even though we all know how this ends, it is a testament to the direction of Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian’s screenplay that audience’s will screen this film with fresh eyes and an even fresher perspective. The Irishman is in theatres now and will start streaming on Netflix Thanksgiving weekend.