Based upon the memoir, ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ by Charles Brandt, Scorsese’s latest collaboration with De Niro is a fantastic piece of cinema. I’m not trying to sound surprised by this statement, but if I am being really honest I had a couple of doubts.
Lets just get these 2 debunked straight off.
Firstly, the de-aging CGI. I had read many reports of the different and obsessive process Martin Scorsese went through to de-age his 3 actors, that this was a process different to what Marvel accomplished (uh-oh I said the M-word in a Scorsese review) in CAPTAIN MARVEL, and to what Ang Lee was simultaneously undertaking with this years GEMINI MAN. I can report that once your brain registers a young De Niro in a 2019 picture, it really isn’t an issue. One could argue that there are a couple of worrying shots early on in the film, but to be honest I feel that this is just due to us not being used to seeing a ‘new’ young De Niro/Pesci on screen.
Secondly, it is the fact that this is a Netflix production. Now, I know this this is only due to me not associating Netflix with big-screen cinema (something that hopefully gets rectified soon). Which is a really stupid thing to think, Bong Jong-ho’s OKJA from 2013 was a Netflix film, and it was bloody fantastic. My misgivings were probably just me thinking that this was just going to be one long TV episode. It sounds really dumb to say, but I honestly had that association in my head. Well, I was very wrong. This is Scorsese at his best, it is almost as though he took his excessive & youthful direction of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and used his contemplative & patient style seen in SILENCE, and kind of smashed them together into a picture which isn’t showy when it doesn’t need to be, but knows exactly the right notes to hit.
This is a fantastic piece of cinema. The 210 minute run-time is not noticeable at all, the pace of the narrative is dictated by the editing of the always great Thelma Schoonmaker. Did I tell you that this film is very funny? Because it is.
The 3 central performances are mesmerizing. Pacino is at his exuberant best, and De Niro hasn’t been this good in a long time (JOKER wasted him, this shows why). But Joe Pesci, in my view steals the picture. He has been brought out of retirement to work with Marty and De Niro again, and to work with Al Pacino for the first time. This is not the Joe Pesci of GOODFELLAS which everyone knows and quotes. There is no, “GET YOUR FUCKING SHINE BOX” moment, but his presence (which could be due to his lack of screen exposure over the last few years) is electrifying. The scenes he shares with Pacino are some of my favourite character moments of the last decade. I really hope he picks up the Best Supporting Actor, it’d be well deserved.
In the LFF Gala interviews that were screened beforehand, Pacino and Scorsese alluded to the fact that they had all known each other for a long time, and it is only due to the nature of the film business that we haven’t had this collaboration before. After watching this, it is a tragic shame that this is the first time. It is a crying shame that this is the first time we get to see Pacino and De Niro together for an extended period of time, bouncing off of each other (RIGHTEOUS KILL doesn’t count). Pacino’s Hoffa is combatative and confrontational, De Niro’s Sheeran is calm but explosive.
As the credits came up, I honestly though that if this was Marty’s last film, it’d be the perfect signoff. It probably wouldn’t be (and I really hope it isn’t), but if it were, it’d be the full stop of his legacy, De Niro’s, Pacino’s and Pesci’s.
One of the theme’s of the film is about legacy, what we leave behind, and what we do to prepare for what comes next. If one is lucky enough to live to the end, and to get to choose how they go, then they are very lucky, and should be thankful for the higher up for the privilege.
THE IRISHMAN is out on limited release in cinemas on November 1st, before hitting Netflix on November 27th.