The Irishman brings back the days of gangster cinema

Conor Breslin

[The Irishman is an ageing mafia drama that has become much loved among critics for its acting and directing but mainly for what the film represents.

The Irishman is almost a reunion for several legendary actors who dominated the realms of Gangster Cinema in their heyday throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s, and wanted to give a final farewell to the era of film that contained wicked wise guy humour, breaking the fourth wall monologue, tragic narcissistic characters and casual bloody violence.

This is a story that centres on Philadelphia truck driver and mob murderer Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his part in the mysterious disappearance of his once friend and Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) in 1975, as well as their involvement with mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his crime family.

For lovers of organised crime dramas, it is something we haven’t seen since the days of Goodfellas and Casino almost thirty years ago, but for some reason doesn’t quite reach the same heights. While the acting itself was next level stuff it was almost sad to see the once tough guy hit-men acting in a shadow of their former selves trying to hold onto their youth.

Robert De Niro has been the Godfather, the Taxi Driver, the Deer Hunter and the Raging Bull and now he can add the Irishman to his list of top performances. Now in his 70’s, De Niro is still a man of action and has delivered his best performance in years as he has finally move away from slap stick comedies like Last Vegas and The Intern.

With that, we have been eager to see Joe Pesci return to our screens for over a decade. However, the New Yorker has unfortunately moved from his days as the short tempered, loud mouth killer receiving orders to a wiser, professional character giving orders and did so like a breath of fresh air.

As incredible as De Niro and Pesci are, the directing from Scorsese is the true masterclass of the film. The film has not has hit the levels of his other crime films but only Scorsese and this glorious cast could have made this movie live as richly and compellingly as it does. Scorsese is still the cinematic genius cradled in the cinema stalls, and depicting lives so much tougher and nastier than his own.

The length of the film ultimately is its major weakness. While some of the best films can overrun the standard time of two and a half hours, The Irishman takes the cake clocking in at a time of 210 minutes leaving the viewer fatigued and left wondering is the film better watched in theatres now or from the comfort of your own home at the end of the month following its Netflix premiere. This is the movie’s biggest problem and one the public should all question before watching.

The final half hour however is somewhat heart-breaking as Sheeran and the rest of his gang are arrested and later convicted for the killing of Jimmy Hoffa. One by one they fall to an ageing and almost painful death.

In the final act Sheeran prepares for his own eventual death, well aware that few of his family, who he lost touch with through the years due to his gangster lifestyle, will be left to mourn him once he is gone. This scene can only bring to life a haunting contradiction the viewers now have as they will now mourn the death of this legendary genre of film that has capitulated fans for the best of fifty years since Marlon Brando in the Godfather.

Conor Breslin

Image credit: Netflix