Movie Review: The Irishman

You’d think that with all the movie watching I’ve been doing over the last bit, I’d have watched the bulk of the nominees for the Oscars. You’d be wrong. Of the 124 different nominations, I’ve now seen 49 of them. Clearly I’m not going to reach my goal. (Not with Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl coming up, eating into my viewing time.) But that’s okay. I’ll have seen way more than I would have seen without the goal, and that’s something.

Up today is The Irishman, which really ought to count for like 3 movies all on its own. This is a looooooooooooong movie. How long? Three and a half hours long. We’re talking “eight minutes longer than Return of the King” long. Is it all warranted? Read on.

If you don’t know, it’s a Martin Scorsese piece, featuring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci (who came out of retirement just to play the role). It follows the supposed real life story of Frank Sheeran, a hitman for the mafia back in the 70s. Through the use of digital wizardry, all the characters play themselves at various times in their lives. They make them (much) younger for some scenes and (a fair bit) older for others. It’s not seamless, though. There were a number of times the tricks they were using to de-age the characters got in the way of the storytelling for me, and that’s a problem.

Another problem? I didn’t really feel like there was anything significantly new in this movie. It’s a gangster movie. Another one. It’s longer than Goodfellas or The Departed, but it’s not nearly as good. The length did nothing to justifiably improve the experience for me, though granted I watched it over several days (due to me, you know, having a life). And yes, it’s Scorsese returning to gangster movies, and yes, it’s Pacino and De Niro and Pesci, but . . . I don’t think I’ll remember anything noteworthy from it other than how long it was. It was interesting to see a take on what happened to Jimmy Hoffa (played by Pacino in the movie), but still, nothing to warrant me sticking with it.

Don’t get me wrong. it’s not bad by any stretch. In fact, it’s quite good. I gave it an 7/10. The acting, writing, and directing are all top notch, but it’s like going on a ride you’ve been on a bunch of times before. There wasn’t anything new for me to dig into. I can understand why it’s nominated a bunch, but I’ll be honestly surprised if it wins anything. It didn’t excel head and shoulders in any one category. It was just very good in all of them.

Should a movie be penalized for simply being excellent? If it’s a retelling of a familiar trope, maybe. For me, it needs to stand out more for me to want to recommend it to others. Even if you like gangster movies, I think you’d be better served watching Goodfellas (2.5 hours) and then the pilot for Boardwalk Empire (1 hour), both of which were directed by Scorsese, rather than watching this behemoth.

In other words, unless you really feel the need, this is an Oscar nominated movie you can feel free to skip.


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