In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran gets involved with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa — a powerful Teamster tied to organized crime.
A surprise to absolutely no one, this movie is really good. Martin Scorsese delivers a movie that screams Scorsese, in all of the best ways. It’s a thrilling mob story, but also a deeply human story that dives into the characters maybe more than any Scorsese movie ever.
The Irishman is a case of the band getting back together for Scorsese, as all of his seemingly favorite actors come into place to make this Netflix original. Robert De Niro plays the titular Irish man, Frank Sheeran, while Al Pacino takes the second billing as the infamous Jimmy Hoffa. Joe Pesci makes his return to the screen as Russell Bufalino, while Harvey Keitel plays mob boss Angelo Bruno.
With all the star power of days past together, this movie really does feel like a reunion of Scorsese greats. De Niro, of course, gets the most focus throughout, and he does a brilliant job of bringing Sheeran to life. The way De Niro plays the role makes you empathize with Sheeran, and almost cheer for him and feel somewhat bad for him despite the horrible things he is doing.
Pacino is great as Hoffa, but it is Pesci who really shines in his role as Bufalino (in my opinion, enough to nab Best Supporting Actor at the Oscar’s). Pesci is really personable, and the relationship between Bufalino and Sheeran is probably the most beautiful part of the movie. It brings joy and heartbreak, and Pesci is able to deliver a performance that spans all of the emotions in a way that connects with the audience.
As is always going to be the case when Scorsese is involved, this movie looks beautiful. Essentially every shot is stunning, and there are some that absolutely take your breath away. There’s a long shot early in the movie, that tracks some action in a scene involving a mob hit at a barber’s shop, and it is, without a doubt, one of the best long shots I have ever seen in a movie.
There’s more than just that that sticks out. The way that people’s faces are shot, how their emotions are played up to the camera is brilliant. The passage of time in a movie that spans decades is shot perfectly, and there isn’t much confusion of what’s going on thanks to the mastery of Scorsese.
The biggest gripe that people have had with this movie is the runtime. At over three and a half hours, it is a pretty daunting thing. However, this film spans the entire adult life of a man who had quite the life. It takes us through Sheeran’s entire involvement with Buffalino, Hoffa and the lonely end he ultimately faces.
At times, the three and a half hours does drag a bit, and you sit there wondering how in the world you still have an hour and a half left in a movie that you’ve been with for two hours already. Despite that, this movie really is a work of art from Scorsese, and it’s well worth the time to watch it.