Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Irishman (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Irishman (2019)
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Length: 209 minutes
Rating:  R
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Tribeca Productions, Sikelia Productions, Winkler Films, Fábrica de Cine, STX Entertainment, Media Asia, Aeon Entertainment, Altitude Films, Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, Dendy Cinemas, Energía Entusiasta, Filmwelt, Odeon, Pancinema, TriPictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Charles Brandt
Actors: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Jack Huston, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Kathrine Narducci, Stephanie Kurtzuba

Blurb from IMDb:  A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.

Cat’s Point of View:
The Golden Globes (1943-) have come and gone just recently. While I didn’t watch at the time, my husband showed me a picture he’d run across as it was circulating the internet. It was of a group of distinguished gentlemen sitting around a table at that very awards show. My comment was something along the lines of noting that it was a table full of cinema mob royalty. Of course, it was The Irishman’s table.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have to be in the right sort of mood for a gangster movie – especially the old school mob variety. That’s largely the reason why The Irishman didn’t land on my personal Top 20 for its month of release. I had no doubt of the power of the cast and the potential for the story. I figured it was going to do fine – it just wasn’t jiving with me at that moment.

Irony likes to toy with me on occasion. I swear it’s in cahoots with Murphy’s Law… but I digress.

I went into this movie with a little trepidation. When I’d first seen the title of the film, I’d gotten all excited that it was something about an Irish person that would, hopefully, be full of my favorite lilting accent. The trailer quickly corrected my delusions of such. Alas, that disappointment likely was a secondary factor in my Top 20 exclusion of the film. In my defense (and perhaps to my shame) I only just watched The Godfather (1972) trilogy within the last 10 years. I’m sorry Irishman. I wasn’t fair to you.

To cut to the chase, the movie was a masterpiece.

It was filmed well. The settings were immersive, and I just felt like I’d fallen back in time for a bit. Moments in history I’d read about in school and the like just flowed across the screen like a living time capsule, giving fresh insight into the old ‘who done it’ surrounding the infamous Jimmy Hoffa.

Netflix was bold in taking the reins for this 3.5 hour Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street) opus. It’s a shame that it won’t get quite the same treatment as a wide theater release movie would, but streaming originals are getting more and more well-earned recognition these days. The Irishman is well-deserving of any nominations and awards it has and will achieve.

Back to the movie, itself. The phrase "I Heard You Paint Houses" is prominent – both in the opening and closing credits of the movie and in the story itself. It is actually the name of the book that this film was based on. I’ve not read it, but the title phrase stuck with me. The movie deftly illustrates what it means, and thus I won’t spoil you.

It was easier than I thought to connect with the primary characters – even though they were ruthless gangsters. You couldn’t have asked for a better cast. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, The Intern, The Wizard of Lies), Al Pacino (The Merchant of Venice, Oceans Thirteen, Manglehorn), and Joe Pesci (Casino, Gone Fishin', The Good Shepherd) were just the tip of the iceberg. I’m thankful that Scorsese was eventually able to convince Pesci to come out of retirement for this film – without him, it would have been an entirely different movie.

There were comedic, heartfelt, heart-wrenching, and horrific moments all woven into the story unflinchingly. Friendship, rivalry, loyalty, politics, and betrayal. These are all staple hallmarks of a good mobster movie. They’re all present in spades, and yet this film is anything but cookie-cutter.

I also feel the need to shine the spotlight on the film’s special effects. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) apparently courted Scorsese and the production team rather doggedly to helm the digital effects for this film. They provided a process where the primary actors didn’t have to have younger stand-ins or extensive prosthetics as the characters aged – it was done digitally, and just like makeup. I marveled during the film at how well they ‘made-up’ the actors for their younger selves – even older selves… It was seamless. I think this is going to be a game-changer in cinema.

All told, this movie should make fans of the genre rather giddy. For those on the fence, like myself, I urge you to give it a shot. I would highly recommend it. 

P.S. If you let the credits play through all the way, Netflix will auto-start a behind the scenes segment featuring Scorsese, Di Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 86%
Metascore – 94%
Metacritic User Score –  8.2/10
IMDB Score – 8.1/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

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