“You might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation.” Those words are said by Joe Pesci in his role as Russell Buffalino in The Irishman. That line of dialogue is the context of the harsh outcomes of what this film has in store for its audience. Director Martin Scorsese creates a Mafia thriller that is not only a masterpiece, but also a reunion of incredible actors he has worked with on other Mafia-themed films over the years. The Irishman is vast with its story, its narrations, its solutions, and is realistic with why its characters end up with unpleasant consequences. The film has a line up of Grade A actors who all deserve to be in this movie. They include: Robert DeNiro (as Frank Sheeran), Al Pacino (as Jimmy Hoffa), Ray Romano (as Bill Buffalino), Harvey Keitel (as Angelo Bruno), Bobby Cannavale (as Felix ‘Skinny Razor’ DiTullo) and many other great actors that Scorsese has worked with on other projects. The film does have heavy scenes of violence that are disturbing, but not consistently like a variety of the other Mafia films that we have seen Scorsese direct. The movie is simply enthralling with narrations that will leave audiences surprised during many moments.
The plot of the film starts with Frank Sheeran who is ashamed of himself and his brutal past. He is someone who (back in the day) was a wealthy hitman, and he learned to be a killer from his time serving in Italy in World War II. His thoughts and regrets start to make him look back at what it was like to be a Mafia man while working with the Buffalino family who were all about crime. Russell Buffalino was the king of that family and the other man who Sheeran had lots of respect for worked within the family as well as serving as the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa disappears, and this starts to make Sheeran come to terms with himself about the connections he had, the violence he caused, and the lies that caused catastrophes. The film is a mosaic of events and actions which are either rewarding or cause betrayal. As the film unfolds and fragments of stories are pieced together, viewers start to get an idea of what will happen as the conflicts with The Irishman are revealed. The result is three hours plus of greed, violence, betrayal, and trust.
The Irishman felt like a Goodfellas reunion. However, it is not a continuation, although it has many of the same actors in the same era (being in the 1950s and 60s), and with the same type of conflicts in which mob families and businesses conduct shady business that spirals out of control. Joe Pesci is the best in his part, because for his age, he still plays the role of angry mob man well. He has the presence, the vocal delivery, and the creepy grins (the ones that we know him well for in the Home Alone movies). His character does not care about anyone’s success but his own. And, for being out of the loop with movies for awhile, Pesci has redeemed himself with The Irishman. I believe he gives an Oscar-worthy performance.
Robert DeNiro is talented at hiding his emotions in many of his movies. And, he also does well with this in The Irishman. He tells his story through narrations and it helps the audience understand why his character has his emotions bottled up inside. Essentially, he is trying to keep the peace, but at the same time does not want to end up in jail or get involved in law suits (even though he deserves the law suits for his involvement in felonies he has committed). There is a scene in the movie where he is talking with Bill Buffalino (part of the Buffalino family and an attorney). When Bill talks with him about honesty, Frank is very mellow and good at making it seem like he is not lying (when he is). Ray Romano is the perfect attorney in this role because he is skilled at playing a non-confrontational character. His quietness and laid-back sense of humor help show that DeNiro’s character is in a safe place since Romano’s character is conflict-free.
The Irishman may be at the top of my list for 2019. I loved this movie. I was immediately hooked on it and was curious about what would happen with many scenarios in the film. Scorsese brings us on a journey that is dazzling, visually captivating, and dark. The film is meant to be seen in theaters and various locations in Chicago will be getting it before it comes to Netflix later this year. I believe that the ideal way to experience this heavy and amazing crime drama is the big screen. Be ready for a rollercoaster ride of lies, mayhem, and dark connections. Four stars!