“I Heard You Paint Houses”

The Irishman is supposed to be THE film for Netflix. With a $160 million budget and this year’s most wanted de-aging technique (ref. Gemini Man), legendary director Martin Scorsese‘s long awaited new film has a lot of eyes and hungry fans to please. It’s definitely made to be seen on a streaming platform, but with a 209 minute runtime, will this be a hit for Netflix?

A mob hitman, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro), is a man with a lot on his mind. The former labor union high official and hitman, learned to kill serving in Italy during World War II. Recalling his possible involvement with the disappearance of his life-long friend, Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Scorsese’s mobster tale is a classic in the making. But it isn’t flawless. The well known director makes some interesting choices to tell The Irishman’s story. We see old Frank in a retirement home, sharing the events of his life with the audience, just like grandpa used to do when visiting on a Sunday afternoon. We go back and forth in time, sometimes up to 40 years back. With the use of de-aging VFX, we see De Niro and co.’s faces through an Instagram-filter, to make them look 40 years younger. It’s not a bad technique of visual effects, and it’s important to tell the story, but it doesn’t work as well as you’d hope it would. Especially in the very first scene, you notice how flawed the technique is when wrinkles are ironed out of Pesci and De Niro’s faces, yet when zooming in on their hands you can clearly tell their real age.

Blue-contacts-wearing De Niro, gives a typical calm and collected De Niro-performance. He’s a good actor, and his more nuanced work in this film is near the end when he gets to work with more emotional material. A very touching note to end the film on. Joe Pesci, who plays Russell Bufalino, knocks it out of the park. His comeback to the big screen is powerful, captivating and career-defining. But the one actor I didn’t expect to like as much as I did, is Al Pacino. His performance as Jimmy Hoffa is both spiritual and worthy of every award coming award season. It was like as if he was possessed by the outrageous Hoffa himself – memorable and uncanny.

What bothered me throughout the film, was the use of music. I don’t mind a piece of music to distinguish certain parts in a story from another, especially when you’re going through so many different decades, but Scorsese uses so much music here, sometimes unsuitable to what’s happening on screen, it takes away the power of the event. Robbie Robertson‘s score however, was delightful. Steven Zaillian‘s screenplay, based on Charles Brandt‘s book “I Heard You Paint Houses“, is strong when it wants to be and reminded me of Tarantino’s heavy dialogue work, but is mostly inconsistent in pacing and engagement. The film is three and a half hours long, you’re going to have some slower bits, but at least hold your audience’s attention. The jokes rarely land, but I’d like to say humour is subjective. I feel like some of you might absolutely love most of the script’s boffolas, it just didn’t land with me.

The supporting cast is substantial. From under-utilised Oscar winner Anna Paquin (as Peggy Sheeran) to celebrated Hollywood star cameos such as Harvey Keitel – everyone gets a little screen time in what’s already packed as it is. But a lot doesn’t get discussed. The families behind these powerful leaders barely have anything to do and just sit around as extras. Although, an unrecognisable Stephen Graham makes a long lasting impression as Hoffa’s nemesis, mob boss Anthony Provenzano.

The Irishman is like watching a compilation of Scorsese’s oeuvre. It’s prodigious and astonishing, but not without flaws. This beautifully crafted film is quite small in scope compared to its running time, with perfect production design and the mighty incredible performances make it worth sitting through to the very end. The fact Scorsese decided not to release this piece of work as a mini-series, but as a full length feature film, shows confidence and a little bit of cockiness.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘The Irishman’

Reviewed at Dendy Opera Quays, Sydney, Oct. 29, 2019. Australian Classification: TBC. Running time: 209 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a STX Entertaiment, Fábrica de Cine, Sikelia Productions, Tribeca Productions production. Producers: Troy Allen, Gerald Chamales, Robert De Niro, Randal Emmett, Gastón Pavlovich, Jane Rosenthal, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Irwin Winkler. Executive producers: Richard Baratta, George Furla, Niels Juul, Jai Stefan, Chad A. Verdi, Berry Welsh, Tyler Zacharia. Co-producer: David Webb.

CREW: Director: Martin Scorsese. Screenplay: Steven Zaillian, of a book by: Charles Brandt. Camera (color, widescreen): Rodrigo Prieto. Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker. Music: Robbie Robertson.

WITH: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci.

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