7+ The Irishman Reviews – High Tech Wizardy, Run Time Excess and Character Regret

3 hours, 29 minutes.

That’s a million miles for viewers to travel with a full-length movie. That’s a TV mini-series length with a pilot and a couple episodes. I’m not saying full length movies can’t be made at this length, but it’s asking the viewers to be extremely patient and there better be enough star power involved, complexity and creativity in the story to justify the time.

Yes, there is star power.

Martin Scorsese the legendary director and starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. None of these people need an introduction and getting them all together in any film? Wow.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, what follows is critical discussion on the movie and contains spoilers. My fairly spoiler-free review is here:

The Irishman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My review of The Irishman – thoughts right after watching the first time

What follows beyond here contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie, yet, I’m recommending you do before returning and reading what follows.

… you have been warned … SPOILERS past here …

This movie budget of $160 million was financed by Netflix. This whiz bang de-aging technology is, as we saw in Terminator: Dark Fate with John Connor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton (for a minute or two) believable. We are seeing senior aged actors young on the screen again. I’m not sure that’s worth the cost of making more movies, but hey, it mostly suspended my belief.

Scorsese likens de-aging to a “different kind of makeup”

In a short discussion after the movie, director Martin Scorsese explains why the de-aging technology is a worthwhile experiment. He compares it to a different type of makeup. He points to Elephant Man as an example. The problem I have with that comparison is CGI is digital, not analog. It’s not the same art as a human being preparing and putting on the makeup. The flaws in the work are what make us human beings.

Computers do not make mistakes, except for in the programming. The lack of flaws, imperfections, strips away some element of art. That is what I challenge from a creative perspective.

Analysis

Was eagerly awaiting seeing The Irishman at midnight 11/27/2019 when it became available on Netflix. Wasn’t sure I could stay awake or not, because I’m usually sleeping around this time during the week. As it turns out, the length and the lateness of the hour forced me to restart from the beginning and watch it again this morning.

This has a very Casino ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½ -like setup complete with the opening scene of the central protagonist with ongoing flashback narrator (mostly De Niro as Sheeran) commentary. It follows the life of an alleged mafia hitman and the Teamsters heavy, Frank Sheeran. It’s based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Closing The Case on Jimmy Hoffa. The book is disputed by some and I haven’t read the book to be able to compare and contrast as far as the adaptation on the screen.

I wasn’t a fan of the first two acts of this movie.

How could those first two acts have been improved? More family interaction, less murder and throwing guns into the water.

There are no romantic subplot with outstanding female actresses like Sharon Stone in Casino to provide a dramatic relief valve from men doing bad things to other men, it’s just bad guys being bad guys everywhere all the time. The only times — except the final act — we see women are when they are put in harm’s way or taking care of children and/or housekeeping.

Yes, this might have been realistic for the time and story, but weren’t there any strong women in Sheeran’s life besides the brief scenes with his family? I’m not getting all woke in this review, but, well, if you’re going to put me through 3 1/2 hours, I need some sort of light to go with the dark. The only love displayed with any emphasis in this film are for money and mob ties.

Until the third act. I’ll get to that shortly.

Also, some recycled scenes from other movies. There is a familiar car bomb scene complete with drama turning the key (will the car blow up?). This scene was necessary … why? How about another scene with Sheeran’s estranged daughter? This would increase the dramatic punch of the third act.

The first two acts are where most of my criticism revolving around the film run time lies.

I absolutely loved the third act. In fact, if Scorsese had chopped the 2.5 hours down to 1.25 and then added the ending, we’d have a film about 2 1/2 hours and it would have been a masterpiece.

The third act is a different film. I was completely engrossed with the last hour or so. This is where most of the run time is earned back, because we not only learn what happens to Hoffa (one of the few movies to payoff on that great mystery) but that is the main course.

The dessert is where the film becomes great. Talented creative people know when they need to keep going. To put that final polish on with a mesmerizing epilogue. This, the last 30-45 minutes, that we understand what the film is really about. All the violence and mob hits consequences boiling over.

The story goes into heavy reflection mode and finally the light I was missing the rest of the film becomes illuminated, making more sense of the violence. Regret in those final hours when we’re staring down death’s door what matters isn’t how many people you’ve killed or how much damage you’ve done, it’s who you’ve loved and who has loved you.

In the case of Frank Sheeran, he died the way he lived: an outcast from the family he loved. They were afraid to come to him because of the vengeful actions he might take. He seems to realize in that final moment of film that he has lived in fear himself, looking over his shoulder all the time, needing the door kept open a crack, because being enclosed forces him to face his life’s reflection.

Deep stuff. I love it.

But I can’t forgive the run time. I know others will probably disagree with me, but this story could have been done without so much padding in the first two acts. It’s a shame that some people equate length of stories, volumes of words or in the case of movies, amount of run time as a definition of quality. In my opinion this is more laziness than genius. Go look up Professor Strunk. “Omit needless word!” was his founding principle.

I’m not saying there can’t be long novels and long movies, but use the time well. The first two acts of this film could have been used much better. The third act is a masterful demonstration of how to end a movie.

Reviews by Others

Where do others weigh in on The Irishman? I’ve found very few reviews that are not recommended, so am lumping them all together rather than separating.

Did I miss your review? I realize this is being posted close to when the movie was made available on Netflix streaming, so I’m going to continue to update this section with additional reviews as I come across them for a few days.

In the meantime, feel free to use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs. Yes, even those who disagree with my reviews and vice versa.

Reviews

  1. LouBickle25 (5/5): “Scorsese’s best film in years –– an accomplished, necessary picture in his filmography that harkens back to his finest works; one whose greatness is sound, unsparing, and gradually felt.”
  2. One Movie Our Views: “…immersive dramatic storytelling from a true master of his craft, a film that not only fits in perfectly with Scorsese’s previous oeuvre but also deepens the themes of his earlier works to provide a perfect capper on his legendary career.”
  3. Movie Nation (2.5/4): “So why did I keep thinking about Steven Spielberg through this funereal mob film finale? Because Spielberg opposed allowing Netflix epics like this bloated, under-edited indulgence into the Academy Awards. A blank check from the streaming service to our greatest living director to tell the mob tale to end all mob tales only meant he’d never hear a Studio Voice of Reason suggesting he thin out the repetition, give it clarity and PACE while losing some of the staggering number of “travel” scenes.”
  4. DC’s Take: “Sure, it might be over three hours long, but it’s able to keep you engaged from start to finish. The direction was flawless, outstanding powerhouse performances from all three leads, and a fantastic script to cap it all off in being one of the best movies of the year. “
  5. Chicken of Tomorrow: “…capable of standing proudly in the pantheon of Scorsese’s other works, it can very well be counted among the director’s best. The film may finally snag Netflix the best picture Oscar it has long coveted, and the cinematic landscape to which Scorsese is so passionately committed may never be the same again.”
  6. Bringin The Juice (95/100): ” While their still is doubt that this is the true telling of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, this is the most widely accepted version. But even without that, this is a masterclass in film making, acting and storytelling as a whole.”
  7. El Burrito Blog: “It’s some of the most perfect, original and beautiful storytelling the man has ever done. It’s a film that’s deep, pure, entertaining and honest.”
  8. Dariush: “…tremendous, sincere piece of work, well worth trying to catch on the biggest screen you can find. Final thought on the performances: Pesci and De Niro are wondrous, Pacino does the best Pacino he’s done for years, but it’s the near-wordless Anna Paquin who is arguably the movie’s most haunting presence. And, in many ways, its wounded heart.”
  9. pizzaluca (4/5): “The performances are uniformly excellent, and the third act’s mature and fascinating take on the bleakness of a gangster’s life is a fitting coda to a filmography that once famously said “for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” “
  10. VOICE OF THE HWY: Everything you need to know about ‘The Irishman,’ Scorsese’s 3 1/2-hour Netflix epic
  11. Dylan Moses Griffin: “I must implore those to see it in the theater if they can, I’m so grateful I got to because it would have been a crime of cinema to not see a new Scorsese on the big screen. Netflix needs to know that theatrical exhibition is a viable option for them, so please see it in theaters if you can.”
  12. mondomovies: “…its overlength is sustained mainly by performance with a powerhouse set of principals (plus Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale et al) battling against a lot of unmemorable and somewhat repetitive dialogue (but when it’s good, it’s great), under-dramatised setpieces and a fatally bloated midsection (as in life, so in narrative), much of which is spent in courtrooms.”

Open for discussion. Let’s discuss The Irishman. Do you agree/disagree with my criticism? What did you like and dislike, if anything, about the film?

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