Review: The Irishman

The Irishman has been streaming for a few days now and the Netflix reviews are coming in. The Internet kind of likes it. Maybe it’s a little long for those people conditioned to one hour bites of streaming TV. A lot of critics really liked the film. But not all.

Here’s the opening paragraph of Dave Winer’s review.

Scorsese has a style, you can see it in the first scene of The Irishman, and you smile, not knowing what’s coming next, but knowing it’s going to be good. The camera snakes through a nursing home and finds our narrator, an ancient Robert De Niro, and the story begins.

Sounds promising, right? But ultimately Winer comes away disappointed in the use of CGI to age the actors, rather than using different actors for the different periods in the film.

I mention his review because my take is exactly the opposite. The CGI effects didn’t get in the way for me and I think it actually made it easier to engage with the strong acting of the three main players. DiNiro was back in form and Pacino’s performance was one of his best. But Joe Pesci made the movie. It was, for him, an uncharacteristically understated performance (for a Scorsese role at least) but when he was on screen he was the center of attention. There were a couple of scenes where he didn’t say a word but with a glance his face delivered the dialog. Very happy to see him back.

There were other great performances. Standouts include Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Kathrine Narducci, Harvey Keitel, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Domenick Lombardozzi (in a fat suit I presume) and Stephen Graham, who you may remember as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire, playing Joe Provenzano. And lots more from the usual cast of characters.

I love Scorsese films, especially his early work, but I disliked The Departed in no small part because of the CGI generated locations and effects. It just seemed lazy, especially that rat at the end. (Also, the plot was ridiculous, but that’s a rant for another time).

So I was wary going in to The Irishman, having heard about the CGI aging. I shouldn’t have been. I found it easy to give way to the story and ignore the effects. I also worried that a three and a half hour movie might drag. It didn’t. The story carried my interest to the end.

Quibbles include threads that seemed under-developed, such as the relationship between Sheeran and his daughters and Hoffa and his son. And I could have done without Bo Dietl.

Dave Winer wrote in his review that from the first scene you know it’s Scorsese and you know it’s going to be good. And he was right, it was. The Irishman exceeded my expectations. Definitely recommended.

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