Though Martin Scorsese’s mooted upcoming films sound exciting, it’s hard to believe that they’re ever coming out at all. The Irishman has such an air of emphatic finality about it, and serves as such a perfect cap to one of Hollywood’s greatest careers, that the idea of future projects seems almost to cheapen the film at hand. Reuniting Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, while bringing Al Pacino into his mix for the first time, The Irishman hearkens back to the mob-movie glory days while boldly pushing Scorsese into uncharted territory.
Set over multiple decades, The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a mob enforcer in New York and Chicago with ties to countless hits and the mysterious disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Far quieter than Goodfellas or Casino, this is still a thrilling mafia epic (perfect pacing makes it feel much shorter than its three and a half hour runtime), packed with jolts of violence and dark humour.
What truly separates The Irishman, though, is its brutal last 45 minutes. Ruminating on old age, death, loneliness, and the emptiness of a life spent in the company of violence, Scorsese packs in devastating emotional blows and a final shot for the ages.
De Niro is the best he’s been in many years, reminding you of the genuine thrill he used to bring to every role, while Pacino goes absolutely wild on the colourful role of Hoffa. But it’s Pesci, coming out of retirement just for Scorsese, who steals it, worldly wisdom melding with soft menace in an unforgettable performance.
An absolute must-see at the cinema, that The Irishman, with all its expense and soulful ambition, exists at all is a gift from the movie gods. And don’t worry, you get used to the de-aging almost immediately.
CAST: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
WRITERS: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Charles Brandt (book, I Heard You Paint Houses)
SYNOPSIS: A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.