Dec 22, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
There has been a major shift of historical proportion in the film industry. Cable companies are not only providing the platforms for making films available to the public they are actually producing the films themselves. One of the most anticipated of these is The Irishman which features not only an Academy Award winning director but an A-list, Oscar winning cast as well. It was released in theaters last month and two weeks later it was available for streaming on Netflix.
Martin Scorsese's grand mob saga takes us down many familiar paths but he has also forged some new paths too. The scene opens with Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), the titular Irishman, misappropriating slabs of meat and the story carefully details his slippery slide from petty grifter to preferred "hit man". His initial entry into the underworld is facilitated by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Sheeran speaks Italian having been in Italy during World War II. This facility ingratiates him to Bufalino. We are shown in flashback how he is given a military directive to murder German captives which supposedly serves to hone his icy distancing from his victims. Not only does Sheeran become a confidant of Bufalino he also buddies up with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Pacino is in full scenery chewing mode. When Hoffa comes out of jail and attempts to regain his position that is now held by a more Mafia embedded union boss, it becomes obvious that he must be eliminated and the job falls to Sheeran. All the while, Sheeran's personal life evolves as he baptizes three daughters and exchanges one wife for another.
Some of the story is told as Sheeran, an old man, reflects on his life from a retirement home. It has always been easy but tedious to age an actor but in some early scenes the actors have been digitally de-aged which was a costly addition to an already bloated 150 million dollar budget. There has also been discussion surrounding the portrayal of one of Sheeran's daughters, Peggy, by Anna Paquin. She only utters 7 words but nonetheless it is an exquisite performance. She doesn't have to say anything. She knows her father is a killer and bitterness shows in her face. Although all the major players have Italian surnames, Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Romano in a little ironic twist it is true that thb protagonist De Niro is indeed half Irish!
Inspired by actual events, the basic plot is taken from a memoir entitled, I Heard You Paint Houses. It presents a vast canvas of Americana, of corruption, of ambition, of the abuse of power. It is conceived in the manner of The Godfather which another reviewer has called "Hollywood's version of Shakespeare". The film is 3 and 1/2 hours long. Scorsese has been in the news lately because of his criticism of the super-hero, comic book movies that clean up at the box office but in his words do not show the mark of theauteur and are "inhospitable to art". The Irishman is art.
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