The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.


"I'll always stand right behind you Jimmy."

In confronting the labyrinthine complexity of I Heard You Paint Houses, many elements, both in terms of its dense narrative structure and textural patience, are borrowed from Coppola in conjunction with Scorsese's past. There's a hint of attempting to reconcile the history of cinema mobsters into a truthful meta-document regarding the acting trio of De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino as well as this period of American politics in relation to labor. A key moment for me is the 'Detroit' sequence, which is as if the '6:55 am' final act in Goodfellas and the hospital scene in The Godfather fell into molasses together. Infuriatingly slow, and even more so when the end-point is reached and the killing of Hoffa is so quick, so understated. Much of Scorsese's late-period work is built on elongated, often bruising rises and sudden, punishing explosions of violence, and I Heard You Paint Houses is no exception to the rule. It's always been a job.

The gangster life is constructed at a distance by Scorsese in this go around. Most of the killings composed in a distanced profile, two shots to the head, boom boom dead. Hoffa is the same way, but the context is different. This is a friend abstracted into a goal, a betrayal transformed into a job, a monumental hit talked about as "it's what it is" and other vague turns of phrase. Scorsese has all the time in the world for what ultimately amounts to a second or two for Hoffa, but the rest of Frank's lack of a life. What an impressive film in every aspect. The only thing that is keeping me from fully embracing it is the sheer breadth of its performances and storytelling. I've seen it twice and barely scratched the surface of its meaning, how it moves and sings and when it chooses to settle down and eventually go to the grave. It's monumental, but quietly sinister - a tune for the men who hoped they were doing anything other than digging their own tombs.

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