The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

When people called this an amalgamation of GOODFELLAS and SILENCE, I was very excited as I love both of those films, and I can confirm that it is every bit of that description. It's endlessly diverting and engaging like a GOODFELLAS, but equally as reflective and melancholic as we see in SILENCE. Which is to say, I loved every second of I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES.

What makes it so fascinating though, as you can imagine, is how it works as a somber rumination of one man’s life and the consequences to his choices, while also assessing the genre and how it’s defined the people involved here. Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci, Pacino - every single one of their legacies will be tied to the crime genre in some way, and the film functions as a reflective examination from the perspective of an elder statesman, retrospectively looking upon the work they’ve done over the years and surveying it through a lens of sorrow. While, at the same time, working as a contemplative study of Frank’s life in the mob and the costs it had on his family. The way Scorsese tethers those two things together is nothing short of sublime.

There’s an odd tenderness to THE IRISHMAN that wonderfully juxtaposes Scorsese’s other crime films. Mostly what we see in films like GOODFELLAS or THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is Scorsese reveling in the excess of the characters he’s glorifying (and I don’t mean that negatively, but he wasn't afraid to indulge in the extravagance and debauchery that comes with those stories). And don't get me wrong, there are flourishes of poignancy in his previous crime films (especially GOODFELLAS), but they're mostly fun and riveting as crime films. With THE IRISHMAN, there's much more of an emphasis on the emotion and costs of being in the mob. Scorsese is in no way indulging in the genre as we've seen in the past. In fact, most the film is pragmatic and borderline insipid regarding the violence and criminal activity. It’s mostly concerned with the consequences that come with this fleeting desire for power and money. Sometimes it’s as big as the FBI incessantly investigating Jimmy Hoffa, creating severe anxiety him and forcing him to lash out at people. Or it’s as small as Frank’s daughter Peggy refusing to recognize Russell regardless of how desperate he is to be a familial figure in her life. And similarly, Frank’s devotion to the Bufalino’s and Jimmy Hoffa creates a gap between him and his family that he was never able to remedy. At every turn, while Scorsese implements familiar tropes and themes (and it is very entertaining on the surface), but boiling below is something more doleful and solemn as it relates to consequences and fleeting desires for power and money.

And exploring that with De Niro, Pesci and Pacino was no accident. Sure, it's really fun to reunite with those guys one more time in a gangster film, but more importantly, there is a ton of thematic purpose by casting those guys. It's captivating in every way to see them together reflect on the bitter humanity that comes with the characters in THE IRISHMAN, while also reckoning with how they helped shaped the genre.

Additionally, Scorsese's craft has never been better. For a 3.5 hour movie, it's perfectly paced. The way he uses the camera is immaculate. The performances are stellar in every way. I know some have criticized the film for how it uses Anna Paquin, but admittedly, she gives my favorite performance aside from De Niro (who is excellent). She barely utters a word, but has as much or more to say in her non-verbal cues that most other characters who actually have dialogue. Great to see Pesci again. He's soooo great here. Pacino is wild and endlessly magnetic.

My only criticism of the film is its CGI, which is not good. The de-aging technology here is very distracting and takes some getting used to as things progress. If Scorsese uses it again, he may want to call (whispers) the Marvel guys.

I hesitate to use the M-word, but this is Scorsese's best film of the decade.