Movie review: The Irishman

Jerry Vale

I made a concerted effort to go see The Irishman in a movie theater, naturally the Spectrum 8 in Albany. My experience is that movies are different when seen in a darkened cinema, with an audience.

It’s not necessarily a film I would be naturally drawn to. Films about mobsters are not my thing. I’ve seen The Godfather (1972, in a theater in Syracuse) and that was enough.

My knowledge of the oeuvre of Martin Scorcese is limited. I’ve seen Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), The Color of Money (1986), Cape Fear (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), and Hugo (2011) in the theater. Raging Bull (1980) I watched on video. Other films I’ve seen bits and pieces of such as Goodfellas and The Last Waltz.

Still, The Irishman was marked as one of the BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR, and even the decade. The movie starts off interesting enough, though there were enough deaths that they decided to note, on screen, some of the future murders, rather than seeing everyone get whacked.

Then Al Pacino comes on the screen as Jimmy Hoffa, and it was almost like when The Wizard of Oz goes from black and white to color. He may have been a bit over the top, but it was the point in which it really kept my interest.

Political science

Simultaneously, it was when bits of American history was taking place, such as the entire Kennedy administration. The election, the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the assassination. Later, snippets of Nixon and Watergate. It gave me a contextual understanding of the events.

At some point, we get back to the now old man we see in the beginning, hitman Ed Sheeran (Al Pacino), as he contemplates his choices, which lead to estrangement from one of his daughters Am I supposed to feel sorry for this guy? I read it’s a contemplation of a life possibly badly spent; perhaps.

I enjoyed The Irishman more than I anticipated. Joe Pesci was excellent as quiet boss Russell Bufalino. Other standouts included Ray Romano as lawyer Bill Bufalino and Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno. But there were a lot of solid performances. Was that Steven Van Zandt as Jerry Vale? It was.

That trick to make the older actors appear younger wasn’t as distracting as I feared.

Netflix reported that over 25 million people “saw” the Irishman in its first week, though only one in five actually completed it. Most of the people I know who didn’t think it was so hot saw it online. I saw it in the cinema and it’s just different.

Probably TMI: I made it through the three and a half hours without having to leave, unlike four of the other half dozen patrons.