Envoy Score: 4.5/5
It’s hard to make a man as famous as Jimmy Hoffa vanish into thin air. It’s harder to properly encapsulate The Irishman’s beauty in a single review. Some would disagree with that statement but if Frank Sheeran could do it, so can we.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Irishman is an adaptation of a 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. This narrative non-fiction was inspired by Frank Sheeran’s (American labour union official) confessions to Brandt. According to the former’s own words, Sheeran was involved in working for the Bufalino crime family and had a hand in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
The movie was in ‘development hell’ as it was riddled with problems related to financing, production, casting, and what-not. But after almost seven years, The Irishman is here and boy was it worth it.
The cast of the movie is a star-studded one with the famous trio of Robert de Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino taking the centre stage. While De Niro plays the seemingly innocent Frank, Pacino stars the hot-headed then Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Joe Pesci lives the life of Russell Bufalino; the crime boss of the family.
The Irishman starts and stays in a fairly calm demeanour. We see the former Taxi Driver De Nero languishing in an old age home as he reminisces about his life to the viewer. The movie then goes to a flashback showing a young Frank Sheeran trying to make money by driving meat packing trucks and selling some of that to the Bufalino family on the side.
One of those days his truck comes to a stop. Upon taking it to a gas station, he runs into Russell (Joe) who helps him fix it. They then part ways not knowing if they’ll ever meet.
However, not so long after that, Frank gets into trouble but is saved by Russell’s lawyer who then properly introduces him. Russell takes Frank under his wing and gives him ‘work’ to take care of him. The duo develops a bond together which grows into a deep friendship.
Seeing De Nero and Pesci in character feels all too familiar to veteran viewers of Scorsese’s work. However, beneath those expensive suits and bold rings on their fingers, one can easily see the toll taken on these legends. Despite easily showing their age, both the actors splendidly play their roles as perfectly as did in Casino. The entrance of Al Pacino only serves to make it better.
Hoffa is introduced to Sheeran through Russell. Jimmy Hoffa needs a bodyguard for his risky work and who better than Frank Sheeran? More on-set magnificence takes place as De Niro and Pacino are shown becoming close friends and even being close to each other’s families.
The Irishman is a three hours thirty minutes long journey through the underbelly of American organised crime and explores one of many relationships just like the ones above.
The movie, albeit slow in its pace, is thoroughly entertaining as it takes the viewer inside the lives of these gangsters and exposes the slow depreciation of these then ironclad relationships which ultimately end in blood. We see Frank Sheeran end up all alone but his fate is not the end we are looking for, it’s the path he takes to get there
The disappearance of Jimmy while being central to the movie is just one of the multitudes of well-tuned plot points in the movie.
Looking at the bigger picture, we can also see how Scorsese’s work like many others has shifted towards calmer storytelling compared to his classics. Guess it’s a sign of the times or maybe we are just getting old.
Also read: El Camino review: A much-awaited fresh start