The Irishman ★★★★

The Irishman operates under a simple premise, organized crime is unrestricted capitalism.  I know this isn’t a new theme in gangster pictures, The Godfather is very similar in its construction and themes.  But in the Irishman we are watching the lift yourself up by the bootstraps mentality in the hands of a psychopathic killer.  Frank Sheeran (Robert De Nero) is a man who drives trucks for living till he realizes there’s a flaw in the system of unions and neglect on the behalf of management that can be taken advantage of for his benifit, landing his in the attention of the local mob who is headed by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) who asks Frank over drinks about his experience fighting in the European Theater during WWII.  Director Martin Scorsese uses a stream of consciousness style of storytelling where Frank describes his experience in general terms, but we see a moment from the war where he coldly executes two Germans who have surrendered who he has forced to first dig their own graves.  It’s then you realize this is not two men connecting over drinks, it’s a job interview for a hired killer.  I know the much discussed length of the picture 3 1/2 hours but it is an engaging story, and when Al Pacino shows up the film finds its focus where he plays Jimmy Hoffa the notorious labor leader who disappeared one day and was never heard from again.  This film chronicles Hoffa and Sheerans friendship over a decade as the two work closely to garuntee a source of financing to the mob to build casinos that launder thier money.  But despite all the petty greviences that complicate their relationships its money and business that get you killed.  Every death in the film is related to business, it’s as if Chase Bank could put a hit out on brokers in the firm that were not meeting quotas or blowing deals. Criminal empires like the one that siphoned off money from the teamsters union, are running the same game as the banks on Wall Street who went to pensions and suggested they invest in mortgage backed securities, both ended up with thier money in a casino.  I thought at first this was territory that Scorsese has been before a man coming from a working class family and finding a home with the mob, but the grand scope of Scorsese’s work has lead to The Irishman.  Beginning with Mean Streets, then progressing to Goodfellas, then Casino we have tracked the money in organized crime from the low level guys on the street through middle management, to the casinos where it gets cleaned, then stepping back we see how the cleaning apparatus was financed by the pensions of the working class who suffer under the hand of the mafia.  I there was something else about the film that struck me as I watched... it felt like Scorsese’s goodbye.