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Movie Review: “The Irishman”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Irishman

Netflix Release: 11/27/2019

Netflix Release: 11/27/2019

Synopsis

Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) was once a hitman for the mob in Philadelphia. Now he is an elderly man living in an assisted living home. All of his former associates are dead, and Frank is now recalling his life and experiences in the mob. Specifically, he is recalling his past in the mob regarding his alleged involvement in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

It all happened a very long time ago. Frank was working as a truck driver after his time in the military. He ended up crossing paths with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), a high ranking, influential member of the mob in Philadelphia. The two hit it off quickly, and the powerful Russell Bufalino took Frank under his wing. After that, Frank would become deeply rooted in the mob, and his life would never be the same again.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Cast (+8pts)

Frank’s Emotion (-3pts)

Jimmy Hoffa (+6pts)

Too Long (-8pts)

Peggy (+2pts)

Side Characters (-3pts)

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Pro: The Cast (+8pts)

The cast was really the best thing going for this movie. There was Robert De Niro in the lead role, and both Joe Pesci and Al Pacino playing mentor characters for him. As much of a draw as it would have been to have any of these three actors in a mob movie like this one, having all three was something truly special. The movie was a long one, but the cast made it seem like a worthy investment of my time.

Then I watched the movie, and I had my issues with Robert De Niro’s character, but whenever any of these three actors were on screen together, their chemistry commanded the screen. You could feel the weight of what they were talking about, you could feel the power that these characters had at their disposal, you could feel the characters’ history with one another, and it made for a lot of truly captivating scenes. The aging and de-aging was mind-blowing at times, but that was really just cosmetic. These three iconic actors playing these three characters so brilliantly was easily the best thing about this movie.

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Con: Frank’s Emotion (-3pts)

This is a fairly minor complaint with this movie, as I understand that it is not who the character is, but Frank did not convey much emotion throughout the movie. I understand that the character had his fair share of fear and emotional pain, but the character is not one that showed his emotion. I thought Robert De Niro did as good job of showing subtle emotion, but at the end of the day, this was a fairly emotionless character. This would have been fine if they had shown more of the character's emotion at the end of the movie or during some of the key turning points in his story, as it would have shown what this life did to Frank, but that never really happened.

I wanted to see what the weight of Frank's actions did to him, I wanted to see the character's regret, and I wanted to see his emotional pain, even if he did not show it to other characters. The character dealt with a lot throughout this movie, and I was waiting for an emotional pay off that never came. I do not mean that I needed to see Frank break down into an emotional tantrum, but I felt that the movie needed some sort of emotional reflection from the character. I felt that the movie needed something to show the toll that Frank's hard life had on him, and Robert De Niro could have delivered a captivating performance in doing so. However, the filmmakers never delivered that and it felt like they missed an opportunity for an impactful and conclusive climax to this story.

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Pro: Jimmy Hoffa (+6pts)

Sure, I liked this character because of Al Pacino in the role. However, that is not why I gave this character his own spot in this review. I liked this character because of what he meant to Frank's story. This movie covers a lot of Frank's life. We see Frank meet Jimmy Hoffa, we see Frank becoming close with Jimmy Hoffa, and we see the fate of these characters. The whole movie is about Frank recalling is alleged involvement in the death of Jimmy Hoffa, so it makes sense that Jimmy Hoffa would be a big part of this story. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how close these two characters were and the weight that this relationship had on Frank at the end of this movie.

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Con: Too Long (-8pts)

Probably this movie's biggest issue was its length. It was not the run-time of three hours and thirty minutes on its own. I have seen three hour movies that felt like two hour movies, which means that a movie's length does not matter as long as it does not feel long. This movie, however, definitely felt long and I did not feel like the story constituted such a long run-time. There were plenty of scenes that could have been cut out. Rather than imply literally anything, the filmmakers decided that they needed to show every single thing on screen. To make things worse, the movie was not even that eventful.

When I say that the filmmakers showed everything on screen, I mean that they felt the need to show characters meeting, and they felt the need to show random conversations and interactions between different characters. These scenes were fine, but by leaving so many of these expendable scenes in the movie, the filmmakers made a three and a half hour movie that felt like a five hour movie. It was a long, and relatively uneventful movie (when considering how long the movie was). The filmmakers easily could have cut a lot out of this movie and could have made a really refined, and intense two hour movie. To give some context, I had at one point felt like I had watched the movie for well over three hours, only to check how much was left and to see that I had only been watching for an hour and fifteen minutes. I am all for long movies if the story calls for it, but this one certainly did not, which made the long run-time feel even longer.

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Pro: Peggy (+2pts)

Given how many pointless side-characters were in this movie, I was a little bummed to see how little focus Peggy's story got. Peggy is Frank's daughter, and the filmmakers touched on the impact that Frank's life had on her and what she thought of him as a result. However, the filmmakers really could have dove deeper into this character, what Frank's lifestyle did to her, and what Peggy's view of Frank did to him. I am not saying that this movie had to be all Peggy and Frank, but diving deeper into this complicated relationship would have made for a much more compelling story than the one that we got.

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Con: Side Characters (-3pts)

In a movie this long that covered such a large span of a character’s life, I expected there to be a lot of side characters in this movie. However, there were way too many poorly developed ones, and it made a number of scenes where it was hard to follow who was working for who and what their role was in Frank’s story. There were a lot of side characters that I had no idea who they were, so it made it hard to care about what Frank was doing with them. These side characters would come and go, and get replaced with others that would come and go, and I did not care about any of them. I really think the filmmakers should have cut a lot of these useless side characters to reduce the film’s run-time and to make room to develop the few side characters that the filmmakers wanted to keep.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (77pts)

The Irishman was not a bad movie, but it was unnecessarily long. Having a long run-time is not necessarily a problem, as long as you can keep your audience entertained for the movie's duration. However, when a movie feels long, it means the audience is getting bored, and this movie felt very long. It was a three hour and thirty minute movie, that felt like a five hour movie. It was filled with unnecessary scenes and unnecessary side characters, and was simply a lot longer than it needed to be. The filmmakers easily could have cut this movie down to about two hours, and the result would have been much more refined and captivating movie.

I would have also liked to have seen more emotion from Frank, and I would have liked to have seen Peggy and Frank's relationship developed further, but the movie's length was easily its biggest issue. Fortunately, the filmmakers had a fantastic primary cast, with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci who came together to make this movie a lot more compelling than it would have been without any one of them. I also liked the primary story, which was about Jimmy Hoffa's impact on Frank's life. There was a good story here, and a great cast, but the filmmaker's inability to cut the movie's run-time down made for an unnecessarily long and drawn out movie.