There’s a legacy to The Irishman that is overwhelmingly palpable. It’s the film that pulled Joe Pesci out of retirement, it’s the first time Al Pacino has ever worked with Martin Scorsese, and it’s the first Robert DeNiro/Martin Scorsese collaboration since Casino.

Nobody really expects Scorsese to make another Good Fellas, but there’s this gloriously vulgar aura to The Irishman that strokes the gooiest parts of your inner cinematic nostalgia. Just knowing who is involved with a project like this makes your eyeballs sweat in anticipation and your palms itch as if these on-screen wise guys are going to be using your hands to go on a never ending schmuck-whacking spree.

Martin Scorsese and gangster films go together like blood splatter and brain matter on wallpaper and yet somehow The Irishman disappoints at every opportunity.

Like most Netflix films, The Irishman is currently playing in select theaters across the country and will continue to do so leading up to its release on the streaming platform November 27.

You’ve likely seen the headlines that it’s this unbelievable disgrace that a Martin Scorsese film didn’t get a wide theatrical release. It’s an understandable complaint, but The Irishman is likely going to be the longest film most people sit through in 2019. With a runtime of three and a half hours, The Irishman is a dangerous gamble between debilitating butt sores from sitting too long in uncomfortable theater seats or falling asleep because most theater chains have converted to reclining seats. Being able to pause a film like this for the restroom, snack attacks, drink breaks, or quick stretches to keep your ligaments from going numb or permanently atrophying is a freaking blessing.

I saw The Irishman in one of the oldest and smallest theaters in Houston with seats that resemble Al Pacino’s wrinkled yet impressively flabby armpits. Part of me loves this theater because it’s the type of theatrical atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else, but this theater wasn’t built for marathoning any movies. I had an entire row to myself and I was still turning myself upside down while using my kidneys as pillows in an effort to stay comfortable for longer than fifteen minutes at a time.

This screening was also mostly packed with an elderly crowd who whispered to each other too loudly during the movie because their crusty ear holes were clogged with the many disappointments of life and wouldn’t move to let you get to empty seats next to them because they were too decrepit to move. Nobody cares about your crippling arthritis, Jerry! It’s not our fault your deteriorating excuse of a body doesn’t know when to give up. All joking aside, the theater aspect is in no way a reflection of the film but you also shouldn’t read too much into not being able to see this in theaters. You’re better off seeing The Irishman in the comfort of your own home, trust me.

The acting in The Irishman is well-balanced. All of the actors seem to be acting on the same level while feeding off of their co-stars and reacting appropriately; this is mostly true for everyone except Al Pacino. Pacino is portraying Jimmy Hoffa, who in the film is known for being overly emotional. Pacino takes this as an excuse to overact. His reactions seem too extreme throughout the film, he gets angry about the dumbest things for the longest period of time (Grrr!!! That JFK!), and his short fuse and quick temper get old far before the halfway point of the film.

Pesci and DeNiro tend to just quietly speak to one another throughout the picture. It mostly feels like you’re watching aging gangsters do nothing but get older in The Irishman. These are aging stars being directed by a guy who has likely changed drastically as a person since his last gangster film, so we’re not going to receive the same thing, but The Irishman comes off as a Scorsese mobster movie with all of the passion, all of the excitement, and all of what makes it interesting sucked out of it.

The incredible cast is there, the vulgarity is present, guys are getting whacked left and right, but there’s no sentiment, no soul, and no purpose. Everything that takes place in The Irishman feels flat and bland.

The de-aging technique for The Irishman deserves to be mentioned, as well. With the special effects handled by Industrial Lights and Magic and no prosthetics or make-up being used, Martin Scorsese was able to utilize a “youthification” technique that is different and unique in comparison to what has been done in Marvel or the new Star Wars films.

More often than not, the actors look younger to a convincing degree. What usually breaks a technique like this is when something computer generated like someone’s face shows too much expression such as smiling or is featured heavily in light without much shadow (Clu from Tron: Legacy is a good example). Other than Al Pacino, there isn’t a lot of emotional range in The Irishman but that lack of a drastic change in emotion may benefit the special effects in the long run.

Even though prosthetics aren’t used, there are times when the actor’s faces looked chubby or fat when they were merely supposed to come off as a younger version of themselves. There’s a sequence when Jimmy Hoffa’s family is all watching TV after Kennedy is elected and Al Pacino’s head looks completely out of place from his body. However, light/dark elements don’t seem to alter this CGI method as the effect seems constant regardless.

Marvel’s de-aging has this unconvincing smoothing effect to it while The Irishman doesn’t have that. The effect is more subtle and is more effective because of it. It’s not a perfect process, but it’s something that could be ironed out in the coming years that could change special effects for the better.

The Irishman is the type of movie you’re glad to see once, but will likely never watch again and never want to watch again. When the film isn’t just focused on talking, it takes a turn into hearsay. “Oh, he said that? He wouldn’t dare. Did he say that though?” All because nobody can seem to talk face to face and everyone sends someone else to say what they said to the person they want to say it to.

There’s this The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford quality to The Irishman that mostly comes down to similar durations and the killing of someone well known, but the cinematography is at least gorgeous in Jesse James and the cast is compelling.

The Verdict

The Irishman comes off as this longwinded geriatric fart with a smell that lingers in a room with no windows that you’re trapped in for three and a half hours. All the mob hits in the world aren’t going to get that smell out.

Have you ever been forced to talk to old people like your grandparents, but they just talk forever without ever giving you a chance to speak? That’s The Irishman except there are more dead cows dangling from meat hooks and being shot in the face involved.

This is that story your grandfather has told you dozens of times before, so it’s lost all meaning and isn’t nearly as exhilarating as it used to be.

Do you know what the difference is between being shot in the face and listening to old men talk about nothing for three and a half hours? Being shot in the face isn’t as painful. “I heard you paint houses,” is more like watching paint dry.

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The Irishman Review: An Early-Bird Special for Gangsters
Pros
  • The cast.
  • The de-aging technique.
  • Feels like a must-see film going into it.
Cons
  • Too long.
  • Al Pacino’s overacting.
  • You succumb to its overpowering dullness.
3Overall Score
Reader Rating: (31 Votes)
4.9