Now “The Irishman” will be released in a couple of weeks on Netflix but it had a very small release in selected theatres around the world.
Although we are now accustomed to hearing the title “The Irishman”, the film is actually presented on screen as “I heard you paint houses” which is actually the title of the book on which this film is based and a metaphor for illegal activities.
As a matter of fact “The Irishman” reunites three of the biggest actors when it comes to huge crime films: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. Via the various combinations of these actors working with one another, we get films such as “Goodfellas“, “A Bronx Tale“, “Once Upon a Time in America“, “Casino” and even the second chapter in the Godfather trilogy.
These guys have always been there when the plot revolved around topics such as honor, family, organized crime. immigration to the United States and ties the home country (often Italy), their identity, violence, and faith.
And one of the most successful directors when speaking of these topics is Martin Scorsese, who returns as a director for “The Irishman” in what I believe is by now his nearly 10th film with De Niro.
“The Irishman” is actually based on true facts: the life of Frank Sheeran, who went from simply delivering meat to being considered an associate in the works of the Bufalino crime family, an Italian-American mafia group operating in the area of Philadelphia.
In the film, Frank’s connection to that world of organized crime is through Russell Bufalino, portrayed by Joe Pesci. In addition to all the work Frank (the Irishman) does in Philly for Russell Bufalino, he is also assigned to work alongside a very famous union leader: Jimmy Hoffa, who needs help in dealing with pressure in his line of work.
This film covers Frank’s life so extensively that it portrays him at a very young age and then right until later years. You may have seen in the trailers a Robert De Niro who looks much younger than his natural self and that due to extensive use of CGI, which I must say was impressive.
The fact that De Niro’s character was portrayed over the course of a long time allowed us to actually get to know him, find out more about him and not only was his a character introduced over a lengthy course of time but also in various aspects of his life: his relationship with his children, with his partners, his work and life before and after the Bufalino connection, his thoughts when he was alone, And all of this put together allowed us to empathize with him more.
And that is the effect we had for example with “The Godfather” characters: by watching the lengthy “Godfather” films we spend hours with the characters, watching them interact in their personal lives as well as their public ones and we eventually get to know their personalities, their preferences, their attitudes. These are not just some one-dimensional roles.
The problem is that this effect in some movies can make you empathize a little too much with the characters. That is to say that there have been some movies that have depicted organized crime, criminality, violence in a very romanticized manner.
Add on some good looks and you’ve got yourself a loved character. But what films such as “The Godfather”, “Goodfellas”, “The Departed”, “The Irishman” actually want to prove is that there’s nothing to romanticize.
These films are actually good because they challenge you, they make you empathize with the characters, there’s the morbid fascination with the idea of gangsters, the curiosity, many of the characters have some strong personality traits that we easily remember.
They deliver many stereotyped cultural traits from their home country, there are long dialogues that get us caught up in the action. But then the plot just slams of you the reality that these characters are straight on messed up!
“The Irishman” has a very mature and well-thought approach to the topic, weighing in, on the one hand, the engaging factor, the fun, the curiosity, and on the other hand the dark reality of what the plot actually covers.
“The Irishman” also goes beyond that as it expands from a simple gangster story to a lifetime of ties, friendships, relationships, love stories, connections, becoming nearly a biography. Obviously a film of this size comes at a cost: the length.
If you are watching “The Irishman” you highly likely knew what you were in for, you picked it for a reason. No one completely clueless to the genre, out looking for a random film to watch any random Saturday evening, would be like Although this situation has two positive outcomes. Because the film will be distributed on Netflix, for which it has been highly publicized.
Outcome number one:
Audiences will be able to pick how they prefer to watch the film, they can pause it, they can split it into two parts, they don’t have to commit to spending 4 hours at a cinema.
Outcome number two:
Netflix is an environment that has huge power, the power of engaging younger audiences, of showing this film to people whoever would have never watched it, of people who might have been clueless to the genre, who didn’t even know who Joe Pesci was or and remembered Robert De Niro as the old guy from “Joker”.
So if I had to point out some criticism it would have to be towards the running time. Because there were some moments in which I thought <>.
I have no criticism towards the special effects, the storytelling (I had my near-tear moments), on the acting (I have a feeling Al Pacino will be nominated a few film awards), on the cinematography, but I do feel like some corners could have been cut to deliver a shorter running time.
Another fact I appreciated about “The Irishman” is a concept for which I will have to bring in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, a film I have been putting off speaking about after my huge disappointment upon watching it. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has sold a lot.
We knew it would sell a lot regardless of what the actual content of the film was. People were excited about it and willing to pay to see it just by hearing that it was by Quentin Tarantino.
Leonardo DiCaprio could have been picking his nose for the whole film, with Margot Robbie sleeping and Brad Pitt knitting, the cinemas would have been packed anyway! These names sell a lot.
“The Irishman” had a very similar anticipation effect: Martin Scorsese, a gangster movie, the old actors! It doesn’t have the same selling power as a film like Tarantino’s, which sells a lot with the ever paying younger audiences, but it had a lot of potentials and it used all of it! It may not be someone’s genre, it may be considered too long, some may consider it boring, but there’s no denying that this is a good film.
I don’t agree that the film conveyed that effect, in some points it was actually so cleverly nostalgic that you nearly felt as if, Is this a goodbye to the old gangster movies? Is it goodbye to that era? Or is it the start of something new?
Distributing films like “The Irishman” on Netflix, although it might sound like a new and uncommon idea, can actually keep the genre alive and show it to people who might have never seen it otherwise, it passes on ideas to the next generation.
What do you think about “The Irishman”? Have you seen it? What are your impressions? What do you expect if you haven’t yet?
- Rating: R (for pervasive language and strong violence)
- Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
- Directed By: Martin Scorsese
- Written By: Steven Zaillian
- In Theaters: Nov 1, 2019 Limited
- On Disc/Streaming: Nov 27, 2019
- Runtime: 209 minutes
- Studio: Netflix