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“So you charge with a gun...with a knife you run”
The Irishman is a culmination of so many wonderful things. It’s the work of a filmmaker thoughtfully returning to the genre that built his career. It’s also a reunion for De Niro, Pesci, and Scorsese. A trio responsible for many great collaborations. This is also(for some reason) the debut partnership between the director and Al Pacino, a collaboration that should have happened fucking years ago. To say I was excited for this is an understatement, and I am so far from disappointed. This is a great film. It’s a flawed one, but a great one.
I really can’t praise the perfect performances and direction enough. Everyone here is presenting some of their best work in years(one of them his only work in years). De Niro performs the titular character subtly and mainly with nuance, and it’s an excellent performance. Not only because of the complex nature of the character, but also because we get everything we need from his facial expressions. It’s subtle, but powerful. Pesci departs from his anger-fueled roles and takes on a calmer but equally terrifying crime boss. Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa provides a fun levity, and delivers all the Pacino anger you would hope for.
You can dress the plot up however you want, but the bottom line is the story of these three men. A story of betrayal, choice, inevitably, and misery. It’s Jimmy on one side, Russell on the other, and Frank as the middleman. The poster says it all. That’s it, and believe it or not it takes up almost four hours of screen time. But every single second counts. And I’ve said it before but holy shit Scorsese is just the fucking master of pacing a film. This feels like a third of its length, and I was always engaged, laughing, and reflecting.
As always, the camerawork is full of life, fast paced, and striking. Scorsese’s films always have this electric and constant motion in the cinematography, and here it is no different. Combined with the desaturated and lifeless look, it gave the film a constant menace and tension. The score is simple, but memorable. Despite some mediocre CGI in the beginning, this is certainly a technical achievement.
Here’s where the biggest problem lies though, and it’s in a place where I least expected it: the story. This is a decently written script that was picked up by a genius filmmaker who hired actors who improved it. The emotional core is there, but it’s through the actors and not the script. Half of the heart of the film is Sheeran and Hoffa’a relationship, but the connection doesn’t feel strong until right before the conclusion. In addition to that I found the first scene with De Niro and Pacino to be underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong it was funny but it wasn’t very cinematic or feel like the beginning of the heart of the story. Also, Anna Paquin does a wonderful job conveying the isolation and heartbreak elements of the film, but her relationship with Hoffa also feels slightly underdeveloped. The material is only serviceable, but the artists involved ignite it.
But that’s the biggest problem really, because this movie is just so fucking awesome that it manages to overwhelm its own flaws. The de-aging effects in the first quarter are inconsistent, and one of the editing choices bothered me. There‘s also one strange scene in particular that the internet has already pointed out. It’s bad, it’s bad, it was just a poor decision on Scorsese’s part. But thats honestly it.
Please watch this movie, it’s such an intimate and emotionally driven character reflection, and it left a huge impact on me. The last half hour is a stream of regret so painful it demands silent meditation. Yeah, cringey shit but that’s just what it is.
It’s easy to make audiences cry or laugh, but I praise this for having the ability to make me feel true misery and dread. Fucking brilliant.
Watch this movie.
See list: Scorsese Ranked