The Irishman Review – Four Stars, The Best Picture of The Year

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The Irishman, a Netflix original film, presents the story of mob hit man Frank Sheeran, and his rise from hustling truck driver to Teamster's Union enforcer and Jimmy Hoffa confident and Number two man in the Bufalino crime family.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Irishman stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Ramano, Jesse Plemons, Stephan Graham, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Domenicl Lombardozzi, Aleksa Palladino, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jake Hoffman, Gary Basaraba, Paul Ben-Victor, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Larry Romano, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Kate Arrinton, Aly Mang, Sharon Pfeiffer, Paul herman, India Ennenga, J.C. Mackenzie, Louis Cancelmi, Jim Norton, Stephen Mailer, James Ciccone, John Rue, Gino Cafarelli, Joseph Riccobene and Bill Timoney.


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Based on the book, "I heard You Paint Houses," The Irishman begins with a camera pan of a senior assisted living facility, down hallways, around corners, the elderly are coping with their final days. The camera stops and we meet Frank Sheeran, played by Robert DeNiro, alone in a wheelchair, reminiscing about his life.

Within minutes of the film's opening we have digressed about sixty years. With a brief stop in the 1970's, on what would be a fateful road trip we continue back and land in the 1950s. This is where we meet small time hustler Frank Sheeran, a local union guy driving trucks, hauling goods. He delivers an empty load and is busted for theft. He needs a lawyer and goes to Bill Bufalino, played by Ray Romano, the brother of local crime boss Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci.

After he beats the rap, Bill take Sheeran to celebrate and introduces him to Russell. Robert De Niro also provides voice over explaining as he is meeting Bufalino, that he is meeting what would turn out to be "the rest of his life."

Sheeran begins working jobs for the Bufalino Family, which immediately translates to local respect. As the story unfolds, the voice over explains certain aspects including his ever-growing family, now with four daughters, he felt even as his position with Bufalino was solid, he needed to earn more money and thought taking side jobs would be okay.

His details his dedication and his missteps. We find out just before he is off to torch a business, Bufalino is watching everything he does, and just as he is preparing to leave he is stopped and called in for a meeting. At the meeting we meet Angelo Bruno, played by Harvey Keitel who explains he has a good friend in Bufalino and needs to remember. The misstep lead to a major shift in his position with the organization.

He continues to handle Bufalino business and one day as the Teamster's Union are meeting resistance, he is sent to help handle the situation, which is where we meet Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.

This is where the film converges and what follows is forty mesmerizing years as the lives of Russell Bufalino, Frank Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa all intersect as America explodes around them.


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The Irishman is a reunion of sorts for Martin Scorsese and the actors most closely associated with him, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel and with the addition of Al Pacino audiences will walk away wondering why this film took so long to be made.

It's a challenge to discuss the acting without everyone nodding in unison at the mention of the names. As the world knows the film brings the most acclaimed actors of our generation to the screen and with that an expected depth and range which is challenging to zero in on and offer insight into these electric and dynamic performances.

Each of these characters has individual pivotal moments, when the violations of the unwritten mob law intersect and life comes down to a moment when loyalties are tested, lines are drawn, and self-preservation become the driving force.

I don't want to say I'm surprised, truthfully, more mesmerized with the performance of Joe Pesci, who portrays Philadelphia Mob Boss, Russell Bufalino. What is important to remember is behind the youthful first half of the film performances are in reality men who are aged, they are not young men playing older, it is just the opposite and with that, the physicality of youth, the speech of youth, the actions of youth had to be recreated, the movements, simply getting out of a chair changes with age.

Pesci's performance encompasses a life and exhibits not only the use of his instrument, more as he grows older, he is felled by a stroke, and the performance riveting to watch, as he captures every nuance, every physicality, how as he reminisces with some resigned regret. The performance is hypnotic.

Of course, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino paired for much of the film as the Enforcer and Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters Union Boss who disappeared in 1975, each delivered excellent, spellbinding portrayals.


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Both were impressive, Pacino with his over the top portrayal of the Teamster Boss, the largest and most influential union in the country at the time, the ultimate boy's club, strong arm, muscle and Hoffa as its leader. Pacino aces the youthful fervor, passion and dedication capturing every physicality, each physical movement. It was extraordinary.

De Niro's performance as Frank Sheeran is powerfully subdued. He brings to the screen a brilliant portrayal as one who knows his position. We glimpse a fullness and freedom at certain moments and yet he is always restrained as he is the Enforcer. This isn't Goodfellows redux, it is a fresh performance, full of layers, nuances, colors, range, and a fascinating, magnetic, masterclass delivery. Awesome.

Martin Scorsese is in his element. The accuracy in his direction is flawless. The seamless transitions, and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker should also take-home gold, achieve a rapturous continuity. No detail was overlooked, sitting close at a pivotal scene, after a hit, fake blood can be seen dripping from the head wound that is facing the floor. A virtuoso.

He uses actual news footage to inform the audience of the precise year with catastrophic events that shaped America including the Bay of Pigs, Bobby Kennedy's infamous Mafia Hearings, President John F. Kennedy's Assassination and Watergate.

Scorsese has told a set story about Al Pacino getting up from a comfortable lazy boy chair, when Scorsese said they re-shot the scene until they could capture the movement of a 40-year-old man, and no booster props where used to help.


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The supporting players Ray Romano, whom audiences remember from his television sit com, has turned in excellent dramatic performances of late and here is no different. He nails the shady mob lawyer, who knows the law to assist everyone in breaking the law. Jesse Plemons from Breaking Bad, another excellent performance as baby faced bad guy. Stephen Graham as Anthony Provanzano, the man who would kill to be king.

The Irishman is riveting. With a limited theatrical run, I encourage audiences to rush to the theater to see it on the big screen. It is an epic, captivating, spellbinding, theatrical experience.

The Irishman is playing now in select cities. It begins it's Netflix run November 27, 2019. See it and see it again.

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