An older man who is currently living out his remaining days at a retirement home begins to recall his life as a hitman for a mob. Frank (Robert De Niro) begins to open up to the cinema audiences, no secrets withheld, telling a range of stories from his life. A big highlight from Frank’s past is the possible involvement he had with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa back in 1975. We quickly learn that Frank developed skills as a young man during his time serving in World War 2. Now, Frank makes a new friend who involves him with a crime family, taking Frank to many new highs and lows throughout his life.
For those who are not aware, this film is a historical drama (not a thriller, not an action). The Irishman is also based on a well-known novel entitled “I Heard You Paint Houses” written by Charles Brandt.
While the Irishman may spend the majority on the movie portraying Frank’s relationship with Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino), there are still many other stories to be shared. These stories show the impact various incidents had on Frank’s life as well as his friends and most importantly, his family. With so many stories to share, this is the reasoning for the film’s lengthy runtime- over 3 hours.
From the film’s opening, it isn’t long until you are invested and curious about Frank’s youth. This is mostly done thanks to an outstanding performance by Robert De Niro, who is truly the highlight of this film. When I recall some of Robert De Niro’s past films, I questioned if this is some of his best work in years. And honestly, I would say yes. To complement his work here as an actor, Robert De Niro is also joined by Al Pacino and Joe Pesci who also give unforgettable performances on screen. Seeing these actors united once again on screen is simply a dream come true and it proves that it’s ideal for sticking with what works best when it comes to making films in Hollywood.
Besides the three leading males, I also need to give credit to an outstanding line up of supporting actors who impressed me for the entire film, partially actors Stephen Graham & Ray Romano who are solid standouts like our leads.
Director Martin Scorsese once again brings a fantastic, dark and gritty style of filmmaking to this movie. The director does a unique job at building suspense with many vital moments which I consider similar to the workings of Quentin Tarantino. As a Director, it’s evident that Scorsese knows how to best use the key actors and that everyone gets along behind the scenes. Not only that, I feel the director is generally passionate about this story, particularly from Frank’s perspective.
With so many positives and praises, I am sad to say it’s not a complete gold medal, but the issues are generally minor. The most obvious point I feel many will have is the film’s runtime. While the film is hugely entertaining throughout the duration, I did feel a slight dip of interest and pace in the film’s story around the halfway mark, which thankfully picks up again rather quickly. Another element to this film is the older actors pretending to be in their mid 40’s. While the power of CGI is amazing (changing actor’s eyes, cheekbones etc.), sometimes these effects came off as distracting and other times not as much. Even if the CGI does work wonders for you, the true age of an actor is noticeable in their movements and walking on screen. Any other holdbacks from me would relate to a film spoiler which I won’t discuss. I will state that some of the timeline as the story goes back and forth in time can also be a little confusing.
Overall, this is truly an impressive Netflix release. Once again director Martin Scorsese proves he still has it and thanks to him, the world can witness a powerful historical drama film. With stunning lead performances (particularly from Robert De Niro) and a strong supportive cast, any issues I had with the film are generally the obvious ones such as the runtime and other minor features which seem distracting. Nevertheless, this film is worthy of your time as it easily falls into my top 5 greatest films that are now showing on Netflix Australia today.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden