A mob hitman (Robert DeNiro) recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Perhaps Martin Scorsese’s most ambitious work, this biopic of reputed union leader and mob hitman Frank Sheeran (DeNiro) has a narrative sweep that immediately grabs the viewer and refuses to let them go as the director covers over three decades of American history by examining the rise of organized labor. Brought into the fold by one of organized crime’s kingpins, Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), Sheeran rises quickly through the ranks as he’s a good soldier willing to do whatever he’s asked, ultimately becoming an indispensable tool for Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The themes of loyalty and betrayal drive the film, as Sheeran finds himself caught between both of his mentors, justifying his illegal activities as being necessary to provide for his family. There’s an immersive quality to the film as the story is fascinating while the production values used to recreation the world of mid-20th century America are spot on. DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci remind us what powerful performers they can be when given strong material, while Scorsese’s sure hand keeps the movie grounded. Though a subplot involving Sheeran’s daughter (Anna Paquin) is underdeveloped and the last hour lags a bit, the movie’s ambition cannot be denied and should be embraced.
“The Irishman” is one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year and rightfully so. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci among many others, these legends in the film world give us a compelling story with riveting performances as we learn about a familiar story in a refreshingly new way. Based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, mafia fixer Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran recalls his life and his involvement in the mob and relationship with Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa. It’s a road trip film and we, the viewer, are invited along as Sheeran reflects upon his personal life and his “work.” Scorsese pulls us into the film, his cinematic style creating a sense that we are in the room witnessing the events at hand. De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci bring their lifetime of skills and experiences to the game, demonstrating their best work perhaps ever. While it is 3 ½ hours, and some editing might have been beneficial, this is a masterpiece of a character study, telling a story about loyalty, family, and betrayal. (Opens in Chicago Nov. 8, streaming on Netflix Nov. 27)