Review of “The Irishman”

The Irishman, or I Heard You Paint Houses as its billed on screen, had its world premiere at the 57th New York Film Festival on September 27. That was then followed by a limited theatrical release on November 1 which was followed by a digital release on Netflix earlier today, November 27. This review will contain minor spoilers so be sure to watch on Netflix before reading.

First of all, this is probably one of the best films I have seen all year. The score is amazing, the acting from Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are phenomenal, and Martin Scorsese does some of his best directing here. For those who don’t know, this film is based upon the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt which is based upon the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family in the 1950s through the early 1980s and most infamously his alleged involvement in the disappearance of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

This is one of Scorsese’s best films and De Niro is brilliant as Sheeran. The CGI used to make De Niro look younger is great and he shines in every scene. The film starts with a very older De Niro in a wheelchair in a care taking facility detailing his life after World War II and he starts to detail his life after becoming a part of Teamster Local 107 and how he got involved with the Bufalinos. I went into this film expecting a typical gangster movie runtime of around 2 hours and 30 minutes but actually it clocked in at 3 hours and 30 minutes so when you start the film, only stop for a bathroom break here and there. The pacing is actually done well and at times I thought I was further along in the movie than I actually was.

Joe Pesci did great for coming out of his unofficial retirement after being asked numerous times to take on the role of Russell Bufalino. Al Pacino does some of his best acting here as well. He’s great as Jimmy Hoffa and has a great scene about a quarter into the film in which he basically goes off on some guys who work for him and delivers the lines amazingly. Ray Romano also does great as lawyer Bill Bufalino, Russell Bufalino’s cousin. While he is only in the film for about 30 to 45 minutes, Romano delivers every line he’s given excellently and holds his own with De Niro, Pesci and Pacino. Bobby Cannavale has a smaller role as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio, an associate of the Bufalinos. While Cannavale is in the film for about 10 to 15 minutes he uses his time well and proves he can stand in scenes with great actors like De Niro and Pesci. The cast of this film was great and the execution was perfect.

Scorsese does great in the director’s chair and with The Irishman I felt he resonates his 1990 hit film, GoodFellas, along with slight elements of Taxi Driver. GoodFellas set the tone of what a gangster flick should look and feel like. The film had good action pieces, excellent dialogue and was great all around. The Irishman has about the same but the only “action” you get with it is Sheeran doing a hit on various men who wronged the mob in some way and he’s just doing his job, painting houses for the Bufalinos. The dialogue in this film is excellent as well. Steven Zaillian, who also wrote Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, did amazing work with this screenplay and his writing is near perfect when watching a gangster flick such as this. The actors continually speak in euphemisms and metaphors because for one thing they can’t openly say they want someone killed. And another is that they use these metaphors to help themselves disconnect from their daily horrors. Robbie Robertson composed an outstanding score and picked great music to go with this film.

The score throughout the whole film is very gangster like and at times I felt as if the actors were listening to the music or score on set during shooting. This film details different decades and times throughout American history and the score changes very well depending on which time the movie is telling the story. The music was a more than satisfying addition for the film as it would change in the scene depending on that time frame too. I’ve always believed one of the best parts of any film is a great score and this film delivered.

Scorsese has definitely, once again made a film that will go on for years as one of his best. For years I’ve had The Wolf of Wall Street at the top of my list as my favorite Scorsese film but The Irishman could change that with a couple more viewings. This film was an amazing watch, the pacing was very well for a 3 hour and 30 minute film, and the cast performed excellent. This film should definitely be considered for an Oscar in Best Picture, Best Director or Best Leading Actor for De Niro. I left the film more than satisfied and I will be watching it many more times in the future.

5/5 stars.

How did you feel about The Irishman? Did you enjoy the 3 hour and 30 minute Scorsese epic? Do you think its one of his best films? Let us know what your thoughts on this review are in the comments and if you would like to talk with me about Scorsese’s best films or just film in general get in touch!

I’m on Twitter and Instagram @zekewestin999. TCS is on Twitter @TheCinemaSpot and Instagram @thecinemaspot_ but you already knew that, didn’t you?