“The Irishman” is a new movie from Martin Scorsese and it is epic is scope, also in length. The story shows the slow rotting of the soul based on the various crimes done by Mobsters and Teamsters. The setting is back in the late 40’s, then through the ’50’s and into the ’60’s. For many of this period, this is the Greatest Generation – folks who got past World War II and returned home to build a strong America. For this movie, it is the Greatest Gangster Generation, with a growing underworld fueled by illegal activities. They are also fueled by money flowing in from the Teamster Union pension fund. An unholy alliance between criminals and the union leaders led to a famous disappearance – Jimmy Hoffa.
After the War, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) works driving trucks delivering meat as a Teamster member. He happens to meet Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and he makes a good impression. Later Sheeran deals with Teamster lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano). Bill gets Sheeran in contact with his cousin Russell. Sheeran learns that Russel is the head of the Bufalino crime family. When Russell needs a ‘job’ done, he calls on Sheeran, who’s the only Irishman that Russell can trust. Sheeran meets other family bosses, such as Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel). Sheeran is soon a trusted associate to all the top ‘wiseguys’.
A leader of the Teamsters Union named Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) needs help from the ‘family’. Hoffa has made many loans to the Bufalino family so they can get into casinos and other legitimate businesses. Russell Bufalino sends Frank Sheeran over help Hoffa, and the two become close friends. Sheeran is not longer doing odd ‘jobs’ for Russell, so there are fewer people getting wacked. Hoffa becomes more powerful, and he thinks a lot of his success is due to the help he gets from Frank Sheeran. Hoffa gets busted and spends some time in a Fed Pen, along with a rival mobster family member. They do not get along, and Hoffa begins to pull away from the organized crime families. That puts Frank Sheeran in a very awkward position.
Other things happen, of course. Such as a mysterious truckload of arms that Sheeran delivers to a ‘spooky’ guy in Florida. A few months later, the Bay of Pigs invasion falls apart – when the Cuban nationals were using the weapons that Sheeran had delivered. There is a Kennedy elected into office, and there is a crackdown on union money funding organized crime. But then shots ring out, and the investigation dies – along with a very young president. Jimmy Hoffa gets a second wind and gets back into the Teamsters leadership. But he is rubbing the crime family members the wrong way. If Hoffa is not careful, the next thing that will be rubbed will be him – as in ‘rubbed out’.
Frank Sheeran is raising a family, at the same time that his crime activities are raising hell. He feels like he wants to be a good husband and father, but the demands of his Bufalino associates and Hoffa take higher priority. There are many bigger fish to fray and deals to be made. Along with people to kill, and buildings to burn down, and cars to blow up. You get the picture – it is tough to be a good guy surrounded by Goodfellows and Wise Guys. Sheeran has made his deal with the devil early in his life, and he continues to lay down with the dogs, so he has no reason to complain about the ticks…
“The Irishman” is a movie that shows the loving touch that director Martin Scorsese brings to the screen. This has been a pet project of his for years, and he finally he got the proper funding to do everything right. Backed up by Netfix, Scorsese has put together a ‘killer’ movie – in every sense of that word. The story and script (Steven Zaillian) moves quickly into different decades with ease. Each of the characters becomes fully alive on screen, based on the script, dialog, and direction and editing. The acting is superb, and there is the unusual aspect of the ‘digital de-aging’ that is done with almost all of the main characters (during most of the movie).
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all work wonderfully together. They all portray people who are obsessed with power and position, that they lose all sense of humanity. De Niro is featured is almost every scene, and he is powerful – even when de-aged by about 30 plus years. De Niro and Scorsese are old pros in the movies that they have done, and they work in sync here (as usual). Joe Pesci has basically come out of retirement to make this movie, and he hits his role out of the park. He has a small role, but he always makes impression in every scene he is in. Al Pacino has never worked with Martin Scorsese before this movie. His portrayal of the large-than-life Jimmy Hoffa is amazing, and eventually the character’s ego and mouth finally sign his own death sentence.
Because Netflix and the various movie theater chains are at odds, it is likely that you might not see this on the big screen. But if you get a chance to see it there, you might want to give that a try. Make sure to have all bodily fluids under control, because the bathroom is a poor substitute for seeing this powerful epic feature on the big screen.
Starting on Nov. 28 – “The Irishman” will be streaming on Netflix.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by: Steven Zaillian
Based on: “I Heard You Paint Houses” (by Charles Brandt)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano
Length: 209 minutes (3 1/2 hours)
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and strong violence
Genre: True Story, Gangster, Drama