I love mobster movies and no one makes a mobster movie the way Martin Scorsese can make a mobster movie. He unfortunately hasn’t made a mob movie since The Departed, which finally won him an Oscar. Was it as good as Goodfellas or Raging Bull? Fuck no! But a win is a win in my book.
His last film Silence, although a technical beauty to behold, suffered from (at least for me) a pretty uninteresting plot and subject matter. I’d classify it as a miss and now looking back at Scorsese’s filmography, there are a few misses on that list. One of those misses just happens to be my favorite Martin Scorsese film.
It might be a shock to you to learn aside from Taxi Driver, my favorite Scorsese film is Bringing Out the Dead. Yes the film starring Nic Cage. Okay, maybe not that big of a surprise to some I guess as my love for Mandy has become so large that I might need an operation to get it removed. But Bringing Out the Dead is a strange fantastic film that I doubt many have seen or remember seeing. The script is also really damn good, both worth checking out if they’ve managed to fall off your radar.
Now obviously if we are talking Martin Scorsese gangster films, nothing beats Goodfellas or Casino. I know people love Mean Streets but I never cared for it. I went through a majority of Martin Scorsese’s filmography when I was a teen after discovering Taxi Driver for the first time and Mean Streets never connected with me the way something like Goodfellas did.
If you’re looking for the quintessential Italian American mob movie, look no further than Goodfellas. But if I had to choose one, I’d say Casino is the one I’d pick, as it’s just a fantastic film all around and should have won him his first Oscar.
All of this leads me back to The Irishman, a film Martin Scorsese has been wanting to make for several years now. Until Netflix stepped up and said, hey, we want to fund this, it didn’t look like this movie would ever get made. And thanks to the technology, he didn’t need to find a whole new cast to play their younger selves.
That’s right, thanks to digital de-aging, a hot new trend most likely seen in a few recent Marvel films. And of course fake celebrity pornos, known as deepfakes.
This wasn’t as fun as a porno deepfake, but still impressive nonetheless. The de-aging I found wasn’t that noticeable but at first it was something you needed to get used to. Seeing everyone look 30 or 40 years younger was… what’s the right word to use… creepy?
But as the film goes along, you really stop noticing it. The issue with deepfakes are always with the mouths. Whenever someone talks it always looks slightly off to me. Now that I mentioned it, you’re going to be constantly glaring at their mouths.
The last film to pull this off was Terminator Dark Fate, where they managed to do a pretty convincing job of recreating a young John Conner, Sarah Conner and even a younger Arnold.
The film Gemini Man also managed to convincingly integrate it as well, making Will Smith face off against his much younger self. So obviously this trend isn’t going away.
It’s also slightly ironic that Marvel was the one to specialize in this considering what Martin Scorsese said about superhero movies. And that leads me into why I named this review Ok, Boomer.
Scorsese is an old man. He made a movie about an old man, who is essentially rambling on about the good old days. He’s starts the story off with two old couples in a car, complaining about cataracts, cigarette breaks and driving on the highway.
I mean, it’s essential Ok, Boomer the movie. Instantly you understand why he isn’t a fan of Marvel superhero movies, because of course he isn’t. Of course this 77 year old man doesn’t like them. They’re loud, there’s a bunch going on at the screen at once… it’s enough to turn off any 70 year old. Like any new technology would or trend.
In a way Martin Scorsese has made the most anti-Marvel movie ever but with about the same runtime as Endgame. But instead of people flying spaceships or fighting aliens, Martin Scorsese has his characters drive large Cadillacs that look and move about as fast as a submarine. And his idea of fighting an alien is maybe sometimes an Italian gets shot in the face.
So I’m not upset with him saying Marvel superhero movies aren’t cinema. All you can do is say is Ok, Boomer.
Now let’s actually talk about this movie, as I do think this is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films. Not only was he able to bring Joe Pesci out of retirement or where ever the hell he ran off too, he was able to get some pretty fantastic performances out of just about everyone in the movie. This is the best Al Pacino has been in I don’t know how long. He was great in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood but until then he has been doing nothing but low budget shit that not even I have gotten around to seeing yet.
And how can you forget his Oscar winning performance in Jack and Jill as himself.
Robert De Niro hasn’t really fared much better.
But somehow they all came together and gave it their A game. Usually when you think Joe Pesci in a mobster movie, you think of him in Goodfellas, the wild uncontrollable one, but oddly enough, he’s very reserved and almost quiet a lot of the time.
In fact, it was Al Pacino who delivers the wild, over the top performance as his portrayal of the infamous Jimmy Hoffa, who Robert De Niro’s character Frank adequately states is only remembered now for going missing.
But if you’ve seen the 1992 film Hoffa starring Jack Nicholson, you should have a pretty good idea just who this man was. To those who haven’t seen the Hoffa film, let me give you a quick rundown.
Jimmy Hoffa was the president of the teamsters back in the 1960’s. He had several mob affiliated characters around him, but he himself wasn’t a mobster, only liked to pretend he was one. In the end that’s what got him killed.
Before we talk about Jimmy Hoffa, let’s first get down to the Irishman, Frank Sheeran. This film spans the 50’s all the way to more recent times, so we’re following this guy’s life for over 60 so years. They skip over Frank’s time in WW2, only briefly touching on it. Most likely that’s where he got his thirst for killing, or at least made him realize he had a talent for it.
So I know a bit about Frank, as there were books and a documentary about him. One takeaway they both shared however was that Frank was kind of a bullshit artist, so you can only half believe the crazy shit he says he’s done, that includes being the one who killed Jimmy Hoffa.
However, the film does make it pretty plausible that he was the one to pull the trigger. Listen, someone killed him, with a high profile like his, knowing his connection to the mob, you don’t just go missing and not instantly know, yeah, that guy dead.
So someone killed him, why not it be the closest guy to him?
Before Hoffa, Frank was just a teamster who drove trucks of meat across the state. That is until he meets Skinny Razor, a mobster in Philly who loves steak. Frank mentions to him that maybe he could throw a few slabs of meat his way if he liked. After a while the meat stealing side job Frank has going on is going so well, he ends up not delivering any meat to its actual destination.
Now in legal trouble, Frank meets up with his union lawyer played by Ray Romano. He manages to get the case thrown out, introducing Frank to the head of another crime family played by Joe Pesci, who they nicknamed “The Old Man”.
You know, I came up with my own mobster name a few years back when writing a sci-fi horror mobster script. His was Meatball while mine was Carwash. I thought it might help get us into the heads of these mobsters we were writing about. I don’t think it helped much as the script fucking sucked.
Anyway, Frank is now getting introduced to some major leaguers. Russell, aka The Old Man, introduces Frank to Harvey Keitel’s character Angelo, another head of a mob family.
From then on, Frank does jobs for them, mostly money collecting, maybe a little arson, they’re starting him out slow. But Frank has a family and a newborn on the way, so he decides to take a job from a guy looking to burn down a laundromat that’s sucking up all his business.
What this guy forgot to mention however was this laundromat is owned by Angelo. Frank is in some serious shit, they’ve killed guys for much less. So Frank takes it upon himself to make things right, killing the guy who offered him the arson job. This opens up a brand new career for Frank as a hitman. This is actually shown in a really cool montage of Frank tossing guns over a bridge and showing the instrument of death graveyard at the ocean floor.
Eventually, Frank gets introduced to Jimmy Hoffa by Russell. He’s worried that someone might try to make a move on Hoffa, so Frank is sent to kind of be his bodyguard.
Now if I had any major criticism of the film, it’s that once Jimmy Hoffa comes into the story, the movie basically shifts attention off of Frank, downgrading him to a secondary character in his own movie. It basically becomes a movie about Jimmy Hoffa at this point. Thankfully Al Pacino is fucking brilliant in this role, so it feels less like an intrusion but more like a two for one deal. We get a movie about the Irishman and Jimmy Hoffa all in one package.
While being his bodyguard, the two become very close friends, even with Frank’s eldest daughter Peggy who is extremely fearful of her father and the people he pals around with, especially Russell who she seems to despise. But with Hoffa it’s different, as to her he isn’t a criminal but kind of a legend, a hero, even doing a class report on him, showering him with praise.
Flash-forward a bit and Kennedy is elected president, nominating his brother as Attorney General. Robert Kennedy’s goal, go after Jimmy Hoffa. So of course Hoffa hates the Kennedy’s which was well documented.
Eventually Hoffa is brought down, but not by Kennedy but by himself for witness tampering. That puts him in prison for a few years along with a fellow teamster president Hoffa nicknamed The Little Guy. They hate each other which eventually comes into play a bit later on down the road.
Now that Hoffa is behind bars, Frank needs a new gig. That’s when he gets hired to run guns for The Bay of Pigs. A bit of strange history from America’s past where we trained civilians to basically overthrow the Cuban government. Let’s just say it didn’t end well.
This might be one of those bullshit stories I warned you about at the start of the review. Everything else was believable, but him running guns for the government is stretching things a bit far. Even the idea that he was the one to kill Jimmy Hoffa was plausible, but somehow not this. Though watch this be completely true.
Jimmy Hoffa does eventually get out of prison, however things have changed. He wants to get his old job back but the guy he put in place has comfortably found his footing and it will take some serious backing to get Hoffa elected as president of the teamsters again.
To realistically do that, he is going to need to garner up support from some old friends and a few foes. Reenter The Little Guy. If I had to pick a favorite scene in the film is has got to be this sit down meeting they have. Hoffa has a thing about being on time, if you’re late, he sees that as a personal insult, so when the Little Guy shows up about 20 minutes late, Hoffa is ready to blow a gasket.
When these two were in prison together, the Little guy went to Hoffa to reinstate his pension. However since he was arrested, he lost the right to that money, which concludes in a fistfight.
The meeting they’re having now goes about as well resulting in yet another fistfight. It perfectly sets up just how big of an ego Hoffa has. He plays pretend as a mobster, but really he’s just a guy who is easily disposable.
That becomes even more clear once he starts running his campaign as a man looking to fight corruption that has found its way into the worker’s union.
The mobsters don’t like the sound of that, specifically a mobster named Fat Tony. He wants Hoffa to shut his mouth, and if he doesn’t, he’ll shut it for him.
Knowing how close Frank is to Hoffa they turn to him to get him to talk to Hoffa, convince him to take his pension and just retire comfortably. But Hoffa being Hoffa, he refuses, even threatens them, claiming to have blackmail material on everyone.
That’s basically the last straw, Hoffa has to go and they want Frank to be the one to do it.
It is crazy to think after all these years, not a single person involved with Hoffa’s disappearance has stepped forward. Mobsters are arrested all the damn time, don’t you think at least one person involved or knew something would rat, telling the police what they knew just to cut prison time?
In the film it was portrayed quite easy. They lured him to a meeting where Frank shot him in the back of the head. Later, a cleanup crew came and incinerated the body at a crematorium until nothing was left. No remains to be found. Though if they buried his ashes under Giants Stadium is still up in the air.
One thing I really liked that they did, was every time they introduced a new character or even just a passing character, they’d show in a subtitle just how they died. A lot of these guys usually ended up getting killed in an alley, shot 5 times.
I don’t remember what Frank was arrested for, but eventually everyone got pinched for one thing or another. They grow old in prison, Russell even dying there. But not Frank, he is the last man standing, now living out his days alone in a nursing home since his kids want nothing to do with him.
And that’s how the story ends.
So what did I think of this film? Well, I loved it. It’s a Martin Scorsese gangster film, of course it’s going to be good. Did it need to be as long as it is? Maybe not, shit easily could have been cut down or trimmed. Did we need to see Frank drive to an airstrip, walk to the waiting plane, sit there as the plane takes off, watch as the plane flies away?
No, but I understand why it’s there. Frank doesn’t have a choice in the matter, he’s being forced to take a plane to basically kill his closest friend. To convey that, the heaviness of the situation, we are treated to long shots that might seem pointless, but aren’t. Hoffa’s fate was sealed. He was warned countless times but wouldn’t listen. And for not getting him to listen, this is Frank’s punishment. So the heaviness of having him get on the plane to kill his friend is conveyed by seemingly long pointless shots that might come off as boring, which is what my brother thought of the film. Boring.
I wasn’t bored by a second of this film, if the story doesn’t get you through it the brilliant acting will. This is going to be a hard choice come awards season, but this absolutely needs to be nominated for something, it deserves it.
I give The Irishman a SEE IT rating.
Next time I’ll be back for… I’m not sure. Not much is really coming out until the 20th. We all know what movie that is… Cats!
The only thing before that however is Black Christmas, a PG-13 slasher film. No thank you and fuck you very much for that one. Unless something else pops up before then, I’ll be back for 6 Underground, Netflix’s big budget Michael Bay action film.
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