\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s Netflix film The Irishman is a thrilling delight, demonstrating that Mr. Scorsese continues to work at the absolute top of his game.  You may think that Mr. Scorsese had said everything that needed to be said about crime and gangsters in his earlier films such as Goodfellas and Casino, but The Irishman gripped me from the first frame to the last.  The film is three and a half hours in length, which one might think is indulgent.  Perhaps it is!  But I enjoyed every minute of those three and a half hours and would gladly have watched a few hours more.

The Irishman is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt, which tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who was a hitman for the Bufalino crime family.  (Although Mr. Scorsese’s film adaptation has only been referred to as The Irishman in its promotional materials, I was intrigued to see the actual film also included the subtitle I Heard You Paint Houses at the beginning.)  The facts of Mr. Sheeran’s claims in Mr. Brandt’s book have been disputed.  The film presents Frank’s version of the story.  Is this the truth?  I don’t know.  But it’s a hell of a story!

One of the best aspects of The Irishman is the way it finally brings Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together.  The two were both in The Godfather Part II, but they never shared a scene.  Michael Mann’s Heat teased a De Niro and Pacino team-up, though the two men only actually had one scene together.  (It’s probably the best scene in the movie.)  I never saw 2008’s Righteous Kill, and from what I’ve read and heard, that’s probably for the best.  Here in The Irishman, we get a true De Niro-Pacino team-up.  The two men are together for a huge chunk of the middle of the movie, and their pairing is every bit as exciting as I’d hoped.  Both men are terrific.  Mr. De Niro’s Frank Sheeran is an eager-to-please yes-man who, at the same time, is capable to enormous casual brutality.  Mr. Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa is a charismatic fast-talker who is tough and nails and unwilling to compromise.  The film takes its time in painting the origins of the fast friendship between the two men, as well as the eventual breaking of that friendship.

The key third player in the film is Joe Pesci.  Mr. Pesci hasn’t been in a new film in years, but, wow, he was every bit as great as DeNiro and Pacino… maybe even better!  Mr. Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, the powerful head of a mafia crime family who takes a shine for De Niro’s Frank.  … [continued]