At the end of Goodfellas, a movie that moves at lightning speed compared to Martin Scorsese’s more deliberately paced The Irishman (that is for sure not a dig on The Irishman, I’ll explain later), we see Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, relegated to schnook-level spaghetti while in witness protection, while all his former mob buddies are in jail. Then, the movie ends, with Hill as a middle-aged guy, sad about his surroundings. Well, what happens then? What happens when these wise guys get old? No, not what Scorsese probably thought was old when he was still in his late 40s when Goodfellas came out – but actually old, when body parts stop working and a person might find themselves alone, on the floor, in the middle of the night with no one to help. That’s what Scorsese is exploring with The Irishman.
Yes, it’s a long movie – clocking in at around three and a half hours – but that’s sort of the point. The Irishman is certainly an enjoyable three and a half hours, I was certainly never bored, but it also doesn’t feel “short” (if that’s even possible with a movie with a running time like this one has; I suspect it’s not possible).
Before the film started, Scorsese joked that he was in this same theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when he debuted Mean Streets 46 years ago. Then, in classic Scorsese hyperactive deadpan adds, “Same cast!” And, yes, there’s some truth in that. And the gang, over the years, is all here: as Scorsese reunites Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci and, most notably, Al Pacino (who, somehow, had never worked with Scorsese before 2019). I wouldn’t go as far to say it’s a swan song for any of these gentlemen, but it does feel like getting the crew back together for one last heist. It’s hard to believe these actors will ever work together again, let alone work together in a movie this good.
Based on the 2004 book, I Heard You Paint Houses (you see, in mob talk, “painting houses” doesn’t mean “painting houses,” it means “yes, I will kill people for money”), De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a former working stiff who eventually meets the right (or wrong) people and finds out killing people for money is more lucrative than driving trucks and skimming a steak here and there. Mob boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci) sets up an introduction between Frank and Jimmy Hoffa (played by Pacino, who is dynamite). And ol’ Frank eventually becomes Hoffa’s most trusted associate. What’s great here is there’s even a scene where De Niro scolds the audience for not knowing who Hoffa was. Yes, we may know he’s the “guy who disappeared,” but Scorsese goes to great lengths to explain just how influential Hoffa was in the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s – well, at least until certain people in power grew tired of his antics. Look, I know I mentioned earlier this is a movie that examines aging, but, with a three and a half hour running time, we basically get a whole feature-length Goodfellas in here before we even get to that. What’s also interesting here is Scorsese isn’t vague about what happens to Jimmy Hoffa. It’s all there and, if this is what happened, it’s all pretty simple. No, he’s not buried under the endzone of Giants Stadium. (You see, that was once a rumor about where Jimmy Hoffa was buried.)
The Irishman is a HUGE swing for Netflix. It’s crazy that, in a little over two months, this movie will be available to watch in your house on Netflix. Of course, that’s the point. This will be the crown jewel of the Netflix original library: a Martin Scorsese movie that basically completes the Goodfellas and Casino trilogy of mob movies starring De Niro and Pesci. And you can only see this one on Netflix. And, yes, they paid a lot of money to be able to say that. But it’s here.
And that’s also a little weird because Goodfellas and Casino are staples of premium and basic cable. One of those movies is probably airing as I type this. So, yeah, it’s a little weird we will never be flipping through channels and come across The Irishman. To watch, I’ll have to decide, yes, I want to watch this three and a half hour movie again. Will I? I don’t know! But I know if it was just on, I would. We sure do live in interesting times with regards to how we consume media. (And more things than that I guess.)
People will want to see The Irishman because of De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino all in a mob movie again, directed by Martin Scorsese. And, boy, yes, that’s there. In the scenes where they are younger, the de-aging is … pretty good. I’d say the best I’ve seen so far. But it’s one of those things that if you stare at it, yes, you can see the imperfections – especially when De Niro or Pesci are acting alongside, say, a non-de-aged Ray Romano. But you do get used to it. And the way I look at this is, well, this is the small price to pay to get all these actors together again to tell this story. To star in Martin Scorsese’s phenomenal film about the price we all pay for our sins of youth … even if you or I didn’t kill Jimmy Hoffa. The Irishman is terrific and Netflix got their money’s worth.
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