November Writing Challenge Day 27: The Irishman

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock (10428408cl) Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel ‘The Irishman’ film premiere, Arrivals, 57th New York Film Festival, USA – 27 Sep 2019

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

If you haven’t see The Irishman yet, this is your one and only warning that there are spoilers below.

Like most of my friends and family, I’m a big fan of Martin Scorsese’s gangster films. From Goodfellas to The Departed, they’ve entertained us for years. Many moons ago when I lived with two of my good friends it seemed like there was always one of Scorsese’s movies playing on TV.

I was excited for The Irishman, especially when I heard it was being released straight to Netflix after a limited theatrical run. The cast shown in the previews was like Murderer’s Row of my favorite gangster actors: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel. This had all of the makings of another classic Scorsese movie.

I watched it tonight and it’s good, really good. But not great.

As seen in the trailers, Frank Sheeran is a mob hitman who eventually finds himself becoming friends with union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Framed as a look back at a life of crime, there are elements of Scorsese filmmaking throughout the nearly three-and-a-half hour runtime. There are tracking shots, sudden bursts of violence, and men being MEN. There are scenes that make you laugh. And there are loads of fantastic performances, highlighted by DeNiro, Pesci, and Pacino.

But after my first viewing, I didn’t get the immediate “Wow, what a movie!” feeling I got from other Scorsese films. The last half hour or so is different than his other gangster movies and, for me, it was the most interesting part of The Irishman. DeNiro’s character is coming to grips with his mortality, his non-relationship with his estranged daughter, and the crimes he’s committed. It’s a more meditative tone and fits in quite well with the rest of the film.

So although I had a lukewarm response to it, I’ll watch it again, just like I do with most of Scorsese’s movies. Perhaps my opinion will change after another viewing or two. I remember thinking Casino was basically just Goodfellas in Vegas until I’d watched it a few more times.

The Irishman doesn’t have the “big” scenes of Scorsese’s other gangster films; there’s no coked-out Henry Hill frenzy or Nicky Santoro brutality. Instead, we get a more drawn-out and contemplative look at a life of crime. It’s one well worth watching, even if it’s not one of my favorite Scorsese films. Yet.