Already making waves through its critical acclaim at Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals, as well as Scorsese’s recent feud with Marvel, The Irishman (or I Heard You Paint Houses) sets out to become the magnum opus of Scorsese’s long career. The film follows Irishman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he rises through the Italian American mafia with the help of mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and forms a close relationship with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Like most directors, Scorsese tends to revisit themes and patterns in his work and The Irishman is no exception. If a man’s journey as he rises up in the criminal underworld sounds familiar, it’s because this film shares much of its characteristics with 1990’s Goodfellas, even starring the three of the leads (all of whom give performances of their careers here). Although this may make The Irishman seem derivative, in actual fact it feels much more like an enhanced version of Goodfellas. The incorporation of modern styles and sensibilities, while retaining a classic Scorsese charm, and the exchange of grand waves of tension for black and blue humour, which is much needed in the film’s three and a half hour run time, elevates The Irishman tremendously.
Scorsese’s ability to break new ground within his own great library of works is a feat to be truly commended.
The most striking thing about The Irishman, however, is its interaction with the history around it. Set primarily through the 1950s to 1970s, the film does not shy from the world around it, with newspapers and televisions in the background perpetually reporting infamous events. While many events relating to John F. Kennedy are crucial for the characters’ navigation of their plot, there are times, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the characters’ disinterest truly highlights the scope of their minds and psyches.
Overall, although by no means a perfect film, Scorsese’s ability to break new ground within his own great library of works is a feat to be truly commended.
Last modified: 20th January 2020