The Irishman is the latest mob film directed by Martin Scorsese and tells the story of Frank Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, who was a hit man for a mobster named Russell Bufalino, who is played by the great Joe Pesci. Pesci hadn’t acted in several years and apparently has lost none of his instincts. Al Pacino takes on the role of Union Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 under some notorious circumstances. Other cast members include Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, and the compelling Harvey Keitel. A favorite comedian to many, Sebastian Maniscalco, also lends his talents to this project. The film was written by Steven Zaillian, which was adapted from Charles Brandt’s book, I Hear You Paint Houses. Apparently, “painting houses” is a mob euphemism for whacking someone.
Anyway, the film explores what may have happened to Mr. Hoffa. It is told from the perspective of Sheeran and much of it is presented in flashbacks. The assassination of President Kennedy is in the backdrop as well as Bobby Kennedy’s desire to go after the Mob.
The performances are all quite strong, which is not surprising considering the plethora of talent involved here. The film is quite good, but it goes on for well over three hours and it doesn’t always avoid feeling like it. There are some moments where it feels slow and plodding. Also, I had some trouble shaking the sense of we’ve been there and done that. Scorsese’s past films exploring the culture of organized crime were Goodfellas and Casino, which employed several of the same actors. I guess it’s fine to do that, but I didn’t feel as much new ground was broken with this movie,
In spite of that, the critical acclaim is still well deserved. The film does deserve an audience, but it does require a bit of patience at times. It has Joe Pesci in front of the camera after many years of absence from the screen, and his presence was appreciated. He plays a mobster but a rather different sort than the barely contained psychos in his previous roles. The chemistry between De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino makes much of my criticisms easy to forgive.
It took some effort to stay focused sometimes, but I think Scorsese fans are not likely to be disappointed. I also think just plain film aficionados such as myself are also in for a largely enjoyable if macabre experience.