The Irishman

Well, this is the world now: Martin Scorsese has an excellent new gangster epic starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino (plus Harvey Keitel!) and it pretty much went direct to video. Not “We can’t justify the budget for a theatrical DARKMAN 2” DTV, just “It’s easier to get money from Netflix than from a real movie studio” DTV. I wish I had gotten my shit together to see it in its week at Cinerama, like many of my friends did – I’m glad I managed to see ROMA and DOLEMITE IS MY NAME in theaters. But for THE IRISHMAN: I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES (actual onscreen title) I turned the lights off, put the phone far away and got the ol’ attention span out of storage for the full cinematic living room experience.

It’s written by Steve Zaillian (SCHINDLER’S LIST, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, GANGS OF NEW YORK, AMERICAN GANGSTER, MONEYBALL, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) but it definitely has some of that GOODFELLAS spirit: tons of narration (sometimes with gimmicks, like it’s in his head then switches to fourth-wall breaking), jumping around through time, quick comical/horrifying cutaways to things he mentions, some slo-mo, nearly wall-to-wall music, but also some guitar noodling (the score is by Robbie Robertson). And there’s a long steadicam shot at the beginning but instead of going into a hot club it’s going into an assisted living joint. So this is old man GOODFELLAS.

The story is bookended by two aging gangsters and their wives, dressed like retirees, on a long drive to a wedding, pulling over frequently because one of them doesn’t want anybody smoking in the car with his cataracts. And that’s bookended by the title character even older, in a home, miserable because he outlived all his crime buddies and nobody will talk to him but nurses too young to know who Jimmy Hoffa was.

Frank Sheeran (De Niro, THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY & BULLWINKLE) knew him personally. I didn’t actually know that’s what the story would be about. Working as a truck driver, Frank happens to run into and get some tips from gangster Russell Buffalino (Pesci, MOONWALKER) that inspire him to start running scams such as skimming from meat deliveries. He gets into trouble and gets help from a lawyer of questionable ethics (Ray Romano, ICE AGE) who happens to be the cousin of Russell, bringing them together again. He starts to work for Russell, who hooks him up with Hoffa (Pacino, DICK TRACY), and before long he’s sort of a secret thug staying with Hoffa for protection and dirty jobs. And then Hoffa makes him a union president.

Some of it is about what it’s like working for an eccentric boss. In the straight world, Hoffa is worshipped as a great hero for the working man, including by Fred’s daughter Peggy (Lucy Gallina), who has feared her dad ever since he curb-stomped a shopkeeper for kicking her out of his store. That’s a great scene because it initially has a kick of wish-fulfillment – ha ha, you thought you could push a little girl around, you didn’t know who you were messing with – but it ends up being the beginning of life-long misery for Frank.

I strongly disagree with the people criticizing the movie for having Academy Award winner Anna Paquin (FLY AWAY HOME) as the grown up Peggy and only speaking seven words of dialogue. Her stares of disgust and disappointment over the years, and her refusal to even allow him the comfort of an empty apology, are one of the movie’s most powerful features. It’s a great performance and one of those cases where I believe the remedy prescribed by people who don’t like it (for her to have more dialogue) would undoubtedly detract from its greatness.

Hoffa is always portrayed as corrupt, indistinguishable from the gangsters except for things like his insistence on punctuality, his habit of flying off the handle (the gangsters are always calm) and his occasional insults to those of Italian heritage. Frank’s role is often as peacemaker, not just as an ethnic outsider but just because he can try to laugh everything off. “Ha ha, Jimmy, come on!” can be more effective than straight up telling the guy he’s out of line and about to get himself killed. If you act like it’s all silly maybe it’ll become that way.

(Or maybe not.)

By the way, some have complained that De Niro doesn’t do anything to seem more Irish than usual. Fair enough. Not something I give one single shit about myself, but I guess if you were excited to see him do whatever it is you picture him doing to be Irish, it could be disappointing.

Another point of contention that I predict will be soon forgotten by history is Scorsese’s use of “digital de-aging” to smooth out the actors’ faces in the scenes where they’re supposed to be younger. Admittedly I thought it looked weird for a second (the first shot of young Frank driving reminded me of airbrushed Tom Hanks on the cover of THE GREEN MILE) and I was a little confused wondering “is he supposed to be young young, or just younger than now?” because he still looked pretty old. But it’s just a different type of suspension of disbelief than if they had a different actor playing the character in those scenes, and mostly THE IRISHMAN has the same artificiality as any movie with people playing the same characters across decades – for example De Niro himself in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Their hair changes colors, they add wrinkly makeup, not-entirely-convincing wigs fill in hairlines. The computer touchups are just one more tool in a conceit that, if it doesn’t entirely work, is a worthy sacrifice for being able to see motherfucking Joe Pesci come out of retirement to reunite with De Niro and Scorsese (and now adding Pacino!) for the regretful old man final chapter to their gangster saga.

(Also I want to note that since Pesci has been retired for more than a decade I honestly didn’t know which age was closest to what he actually looks like now.)

Pacino is fun, at times trying an accent. He gets to have a tirade or two, and many chances to play it big and loud. The other two leads get to be more interior and subdued, which is thrilling in the case of Pesci, who we don’t associate with that type of role. One of my favorite scenes has to do with Russell’s Christmas clearly not impressing Peggy, Frank telling her to thank him and Russell saying no, it’s okay. It’s like any awkward gift exchange except they all know and aren’t saying that she doesn’t like him because she knows what he does and the things he normally does to get people on his side don’t work on her.

De Niro’s performance reminds me a little bit of Louis in JACKIE BROWN, a quiet, mellow exterior trying to contain a capability of explosive violence. But for Frank killing is not something that happens when a slowly boiling anger finally overflows, it’s more of a professional obligation. I like how much of the movie is spent on the various parties beating around the bush about killing Hoffa. First, hoping he’ll do what they want him to do. Meeting with him. Taking him aside to warn him. Discussing how many times they tried to warn him before deciding “It is what it is.” This is a world where you can be long time friends with a guy and his family and still believe it’s your duty to execute him. Because the profession demands it.

It’s not a matter of Russell threatening him or yelling at him to do it. He orchestrates it to keep Frank out of the loop for as long as possible before it needs to be done and I think it’s kind of an act of friendship. I know this is going to be hard on you, but also I know you understand you have to do it, let’s rip the Band-Aid off.

Coincidentally I was re-reading the book The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren recently and in Chapter 1 it talks about a teenage Bruce Campbell with flour in his hair playing Jimmy Hoffa in a Super-8 slapstick comedy called The James Hoffa Story, “shot on the exact spot where he disappeared” two weeks after it happened. Maybe if they ever release a longer cut of THE IRISHMAN it will include a scene about that important event.

Part of the game here is tension and suspense about when and what horrible things will go down, as well as all the interesting detail about crime operation. And there’s dark humor in their casual amorality, in how much of their time is spent on things like business meetings and awards banquets, and in the repetitive technique of introducing characters along with the date and manner of their inevitable violent death. Everybody in this world check out early. Everybody except Frank. Which is a curse. He has to live with what he did. I think that’s one of the things that makes THE IRISHMAN stand out from the other movies in this vein, including the ones by Scorsese. I love the part in GOODFELLAS where they’re cooking in prison, talking about how thin to slice the garlic. In THE IRISHMAN’s prison scenes they’re so old that a special treat is bread softened by being dipped in grape juice. The moral isn’t “eventually you’ll get killed or go to prison.” It’s “eventually you might get out of prison and things will be even worse because you still won’t be able to enjoy anything and you won’t even have friends.”

The last stretch is about this miserable existence with no hope for redemption. One daughter won’t accept his apology. Another won’t even look at him. I suppose the police give him an opportunity to tell what happened to Hoffa and give some closure to his family, but he doesn’t do it. Against the code or something. He could confess to a priest, but doesn’t know how. Only he and we are privy to the particular low point that has apparently nagged at him all these years. When he blurts out “What kind of a man makes a phone call like that?” the priest doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.

Peggy is 100% right not to talk to him, and let him feel absolved in some way. Not for one second do we think “Come on, cut him some slack.” And yet we can still sit with this dishonorable murderer as he stews in failure and regret and we can feel sorry for him. That’s the humanity of Scorsese, and of movies.

Though I’d prefer if this was given a longer theatrical release I do have to give Netflix credit for funding the movie, promoting it well and letting Scorsese give them something that’s the opposite of today’s short attention span expectations for entertainment. It’s long and it’s slow and you’re not going to get jack shit out of it if you’re not paying attention. And they even programmed it to play the entire end credits before it autoplays KUNDUN.

(Just kidding. It autoplays a special with Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci and Pacino in conversation, which was a nice idea.)

Also Action Bronson is in one scene. It’s pretty good.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 at 7:17 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

92 Responses to “The Irishman”

  1. Random Seattle tip: all the Netflix theatrical releases seem to open at the Crest and play there for weeks. The Irishman and Wedding Story are both still there through Thursday (at least), and as far as I know they’re still just $4!

  2. When Frank opens up the back of the truck to “find out” it’s empty, the way he says “what the fuck is this?” sounded very Irish to me.

  3. Boy I really wanted to like this one more, but it wound up leaving me kinda cold. It’s undeniably well-made, and I thought the acting was uniformly great. Pesci obviously is great, I loved how understated and quiet he is, and I especially loved Ray Romano actually. He was my favorite part of THE BIG SICK, too, and I wish he was getting more work. Pacino is great in his “charismatic loud guy” mode.

    I also think it presents the violence as unappealing really well- I actually thought the scene with the grocer was really awful from the start. The counterpoint that immediately came to mind was when Henry pistol-whips the guy who was bothering his wife in GOODFELLAS. That scene *does* have the sort of cathartic movie-violence fun about it (which makes sense, given that a lot of that movie is explicitly about how appealing the gangster life can seem), whereas in THE IRISHMAN, it was queasy and unpleasant right from the start. The fact that he drags his little daughter out to watch him maim some guy is fucking horrifying.

    All that said, the movie wound up leaving me a little cold. I didn’t feel like it told me anything particularly new or interesting- it was just a well-done spin on a story I’ve seen before. And that’s fine, really- a movie doesn’t have to be completely innovative for me to enjoy it. And I *did* enjoy it. I guess I just didn’t *love* it like i feel I should have, if that makes sense.

  4. The way this film is paced and told reminded me a film Robert De Niro directed 13 years ago called THE GOOD SHEPARD about the CIA, viewed through the life of Matt Damon’s character. It’s a slow-paced and kinda quiet like this film. I don’t remember if that one was actually good. The Irishman was great, and it’s like an old man’s version of GOODFELLAS and CASINO. Both of does movies are so much faster paced and violent.

  5. Least hot take ever: This movie just feels far too long. I say that as a film criticism. Had this been a five episode mini series, I guess I wouldn’t have any trouble with it. But it seemed to meander quite a bit, and I kept thinking as I watched it (I insisted on watching it without a single pause) that it lollygag along and beats shit into the dirt. We get it, Pesci’s wife cant smoke in the back seat of the car. These kind of funny little moments seemed to last 30 seconds in a film like Goodfellas. Here, the beats drag out and don’t really go anywhere. It just felt like someone needed to tell Scorcese every now and again that he could tighten things up a bit.

    The “deaging” really didn’t bother me. At times, honestly, it was impressive as all get out. And I bet it was even more impressive than I thought, because I am sure I didn’t even realize it was happening as often as it did. The times when it looked off didn’t bother me too much (DeNiro trying to curb stomp the grocery store owner was beyond silly, though, it looke like something out of Dirty Granpa).

    Quite honestly, more distracting than the deaging was the way they made DeNiro’s eyes blue. I don’t know what they used to do that, but at times he looked like he was a vampire in Salem’s Lot or something.

    One thing that did strike me (not in a good way) is that this seemed like the least visually impressive Scorcese movie I can remember. I watch Wolf of Wall Street, and he is doing so much with the camera in that movie. That movie is just as entertaining visually as it is for the performances. There were times during Irishman that it felt very bland, if that makes sense.

    DeNiro really is fantastic in this. I was about to type “it is one of his 5 best acting jobs ever”, but that may be stretching it. But the fact I could type that is astounding. Pesci is great too, of course.

    Pacino is a tough call for me. This basically seems like every scenery chewing performance he has done over the last 20 years. I admittedly don’t think I have ever seen video of the real Jimmy Hoffa, but I am thinking that might have been perfect for the role. But throughout, it really felt like I was watching Pacino playing Pacino. Which, again, is what he has been doing since Scent of a Woman.

    I liked Irishman overall, but definitely didn’t love it. It seems inevitable it will be nominated for best picture, and almost inevitable it will win. That I strongly disagree with. But it almost seems like blasphemy at this point to review this like any regular old movie. I have a hard time seeing myself watching it a second time.

    All this being said, I LOVE that Netflix would spend the money to make a movie like this. Good for them. I wonder how many great filmmakers will get to make huge budget passion projects like this because of streaming services fighting one another for superior content.

  6. On one hand, it’s hard to deny that this territory hasn’t been pretty thoroughly covered by all involved before, but the more I think about it, the more I sort of admire its unsentimental look at the “after” part of the story that Scorsese’s other mob films don’t really touch. I thought THE WOLF OF WALL STREET kind of fell apart in the last act because it expected us to feel sorry for its dirtbag protagonist after things start to fall about, but THE IRISHMAN offers a surprisingly, maybe even impressively, dispassionate denoument. It doesn’t particularly ask you to feel sorry for Frank, nor does it regard him with contempt; it simply puts the character in the position where he has to ask himself “was it worth it?”

    The answer is obvious: no. And it could be just a 45-minute rumination on Marge Gunderson’s half confused, half disappointed “And for what? For a little bit of money.” But it gets more interesting by having the Frank manifestly refuse to address the obvious question. He’s such an internalized character that he doesn’t even really seem to have the ability to ask that question, and doesn’t know what to do when it’s asked of him. It really highlights an odd lack of agency in his story. He doesn’t seem to particularly like violence, or need money, or enjoy the gangster life. He’s just kind of an empty vessel who goes along with things, never really even considering whether he should, or if he even wants to. In that sense, it kinda transcends its mobster trappings and becomes a more universal film about you and I, just bumbling along through life, burning through Earth’s precious resources, paying our taxes while the government tells us white lies about the atrocities it’s inflicting somewhere far away from us. When our kids look at us with horror over the things we’ve participated in, the things we’ve done or simply allowed to be done without much thinking about it, will we have any better answers than Frank does?

  7. The lifelong Wu-Tang fan in me would’ve prefered a Ghostface Killah cameo.

    You’re right though Vern Paquin’s performance was aces. Somebody jokingly told me “ayo I felt sorry for De Niro when Rogue curved him at the bank he was old as fuck, forgive and forget.” then I reminded him of the store scene & the one after Hoffa’s disappearance is talked about before he makes that awkward phone call. He got it.

    This was somebody who like me has seen some toxic ass parenting where parents end up inadvertently traumatizing the kid while trying to protect them because they forgot that these are still kids. We grew up with people like that. Many ended up really screwed up with mommy and daddy issues because they stayed around that and couldn’t recondition themselves. At least she gives herself enough to avoid that part.

    I have never seen THE PIANO. Isn’t her character a mute in that? If that’s the case the fact that people are complaining about somebody who won an Oscar for playing a mute playing another essentially mute character is kinda hilarious. Ever think Scorsese probably hired her because she IS obviously so good at portraying emotion with pure body language in the first place?

    The most effective for me was after Joe Gallo’s death when she is a teen. The disdain she has for her dad who she views as a monster and how disappointed she was in him was perfectly captured there. In the hands of someone who captures raw human emotion so authentically on film like Scorsese you would think most will agree that that’s a good thing.

  8. Pretty certain the mother of Anna Paquin’s character, played by Holly Hunter, was the mute piano lover.

  9. I think it is so funny I never once thought that Anna Paquin’s role was too insignificant. I thought it was pretty moving. And I 100% would have clicked it off had they hugged it out.

    It was also nice to see Marin Ireland in this, albeit briefly. She is really great in Sneaky Pete, an Amazon original show.

  10. Like Broddie, I’m Team GFK all the way, though I do appreciate Bronson’s moxie and have never really bought into all the Bronson-Ghostface comparisons, which is really what goaded them into an unnecessary feud. Still, gotta give it Tony Starks.

    Vern, I’m one of the ones — the one? — who commented about De Niro’s lack of any apparent Irishness. For the record, it probably would’ve been really bad if he’d tried harder to seem Irish-American. It’s just something about the balls of calling the film THE IRISHMAN (that isn’t even the title of the book). Also, I’m tired of De Niro cultually appropriating Irish stuff and wearing Irish-face. Lol.

    Great film, a lot of good comments. I share Subtlety’s basic interpretation (or, at least, a lot of the same things resonated), and I unpacked something similar in the WOLF OF WALL STREET thread.

    I’m at peace with this being a Netflix joint, too. I mean, the environment is changing. I don’t love it, but I’ve yelled at cloud about enough things as I’ve come to grips with aging and cultural change and technology — that at a certain point, I have to accept that these forces are bigger than me. That does not equal apathy or condoning, but it’s just a realization that there are only so many times I can get pissed at twitter for being twitter or Netflix for being Netflix — or for the masses of the tweeting, netflixing, non-theater-going people who are helping drive these trends. Get busy living or get busy yelling at cloud.

  11. Just want to record my opinion here for, y’know, the historical record.

    People are having trouble with THE IRISHMAN because it’s long, it’s quiet, it’s on Netflix, Anna Paquin is silent, and the aging effects are new and different. But this one’s a masterpiece and I believe the years will treat it very kindly. Unlike WOLF OF WALL STREET or SILENCE (both of which are great movies), this one is going to be seen as an Essential Capstone when talking about Scorsese’s career. People are not going to be able to talk about MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS and CASINO without also talking about this one. So it’s not going to leave the conversation anytime soon.

  12. De Niro isn’t Irish?

  13. It touched me to the core; it viciously and disturbingly captures the feeling of going through the motions of the most consequential moment of not just your life but also that of the people you care about the most like it’s a job.

    That runtime is an absolute bitch though, goddamn. I’ve seen long movies that required their runtimes, and this wasn’t one of them.

    Jimmi Hoffa scene was cute :)

  14. The silence of Peggy Sheeran and her singular facial expression of wounded contempt toward her father speaks louder than any dialogue. Don’t be surprised if Paquin gets a nomination for supporting actor this awards season.

    This is a great, great film. In my top 5 Scorsese’s. I agree with the Major’s prediction of ongoing discussion and Essential Scorsese status.

    My god was this film mournful with an undercurrent of sorrow and regret. Frank Sheeran has more in common with Jake La Motta than Jimmy Conway or Sam Rothstein, with his complete ignorance of the effect he has on those around him. The final scene at the nursing home when Frank asks the priest whom he couldn’t confess to to leave the door ajar on his way out, was the perfect understated denouement of this man’s life. Maybe someone will come? At the very least I can take comfort as I watch people pass by along the hallway. And Pesci’s final scene where he says cheerfully “I’m going to church!” as he’s wheeled through the prison yard into palliative care. Equal parts hilarious and sad.

    I had to look up the actress who played Hoffa’s wife because she looked familiar and was happy to discover she’s Welker White, who was the droll baby-sitter/drug mule Lois Byrd in GOODFELLAS.

  15. JeffG: The CGI didn’t really bother me either. One film I’ve been really tempted to revisit, and Vern mentions it briefly is ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, for the way it used old make-up on De Niro and James Woods to decent effect. Seeing De Niro younger has the same sort of effect, because you really are experiencing his younger days through a man in the twilight of his life. So if Frank doesn’t look like he’s moving around or doing other things at a more spritely pace, it’s perhaps reflective of his deteriorating memory. I’m reading the book right now, and Zaillian did a really good job of capturing the essence of how Frank remembered his life.

    Mr. S: It actually took me until watching it again a little to realize that Frank is talking straight into the camera when it switches back to his oldest self. The sunglasses obscure this effect which I guess is intentional (and is perhaps a callback to the scene before he gets on the plane). Scorsese’s favorite Kubrick film is BARRY LYNDON, and I think Frank’s narration and omnipresence over the film is in some ways a tribute to how that film utilized a more removed narration. This takes that approach and utilizes it eternally to such an effect, it carries you through. Certainly did for me.

    Skani: I’m okay with this being Netflix too, considering it did have theatrical showings, if very limited ones. I saw this on my brother’s 75 inch television in 4K quality (and it looked hella sharp), so I feel that made up for seeing it on the big screen a little. I completely understand the worry concerning theaters nowadays but with how bigger and bolder these new TVs are getting, feels like a nice trade-off for me. But it obviously doesn’t beat a packed house sharing the communal experience.

    renfield: I believe he is part Irish, if not half. He was originally supposed to be in Martin Sheen’s role in THE DEPARTED, which would have been fantastic in a few regards. I think he could have pulled off the Irish-American-ness of the character, it would have been cool seeing him share the screen with Nicholson in that one scene, and seeing that character, played by Scorsese’s muse, die in such a spectacularly horrific manner would have blown audience’s minds.

    Mastor Troy: Don’t be surprised if people, probably the same ones who think she was wasted in this, roll their eyes if she is nominated too. I really hope she is. Between her and the girl who played the younger scenes, they expressed multitudes of the emotions behind living with violent fathers. “Fortunately” for Peggy, he didn’t bring the violence home. It’s an incredible use of silence, and every one of those 7 words she said carried all the weight of what I just explained.

    Pesci in his final scenes was just a real blow to the gut for me. Seeing him so weak and frail, in the very thick and convincing makeup, was just so sad to watch. Especially when he tells Frank “fuck em” after talking a little about Hoffa at the lunch table. De Niro being wheeled around, planning for his burial (picking the green casket was a nice touch, all things considered), and his final scenes in the home aren’t as viscerally sad as seeing Russ being wheeled away to his death but it drives the point home and makes for an incredibly poignant ending.

  16. The only time the de-aging bothered me was in the scene where De Niro and Pesci first meet at the truck stop. Pesci seems intended to be fairly older than De Niro at that point based on their dialogue, but they looked about the same age to me. It didn’t really pull me out of the movie or anything but I definitely noticed it most then.

  17. I thought this was fucking astounding. I was wondering if Vern was going to bring up the age-old “Does portrayal equal endorsement?!” argument which seems to perpetually haunt Scorsese’s shadow. Even with this, a movie which ends with Frank unable to even articulate his remorse, to perform the penitence required to be eligible for spiritual absolution. I mean what’s Marty gotta do beyond magically making his old friends young in order to thematically atone for their past fictional sins?

    To the extent that your attention was drawn to it, the graphical effect honestly works to the film’s advantage because of that extra-textual reason, but it also just makes sense… this being ancient Frank’s memory, he can *sort of* conceive of himself and of Russell as younger dudes but it’s kinda glitchy. But like most 3D movies, I found that you had to remind yourself that there was an effect going on to consistently notice it.

    I was also struck by the Christmas scene. I’ll draw a parallel to GOODFELLAS: there’s a kid paying Joe Pesci’s character some degree of disrespect, and Pesci’s friends, anticipating some sort of reaction, try to diffuse it. Like, familiarity with the classic sequence with poor Spider adds a layer it wouldn’t otherwise have. Your instinct goes there, but then you consider that of course Russell wouldn’t commit some unspeakable act against Peggy, he’s not the same character as Tommy DeVito…. and you’re caught oscillating between intra- and extra-textual interpretations. Add in the rivalry between Jimmy Hoffa and Russell over Peggy, and it’s just too organically rich and thorny for me to even WANT to dissect and boil down to some A+B=C thematic distillate.

    I don’t watch enough movies anymore because I’m in a rut, but this and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD are out to rekindle my inner flame.

  18. @Mr. S: I constantly get into squabbles about this movie, but I don’t think THE WOLF OF WALL STREET expects us to feel sorry for Jordan Belfort at the end. It sets up why he feels that way and is worried, and then totally undercuts it because #he’s-rich.

    This movie is fantastic–there’s a little bit of Robert De Niro as Forrest Gump which feel undercovered overall in the film discourse. Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s acknowledged so far in awards season. That said, I’m not feeling that bad for De Niro getting snubbed. He is absolutely fantastic at points for this movie. At the same time, he’s also the least convincingly de-aged (everybody poijnting to only the truck stop scene…did you just accept the call of duty animation for his flashback bit?) and he does the worst of the 3 for convincingly de-aging his body movements. That beatdown in front of the store…it’s fair to meme and mock that. Those clips have to go right up against the absolutely great scenes of him struggling with making hard decisions.

    I guess Marty was clear enough about the bleakness that he’s not been as plagued with depiction = endorsement this time around.

  19. So, who gets the Oscar for this? When faced with more explosive actors like Pesci and Pacino, DeNiro always tones it down. But he really is damn good in this. But so are Pesci and Pacino. I see that they’re both nominated for a Golden Globe, which is often a hint about the Academy Award. If I had to pick one I’d go for Pesci. He plays it totally different from what we’re used to, and he does it in a great, for him new, way.

  20. 26 million homes streamed this movie in the first week, according to Netflix. Making movies for these streaming platforms is here to stay. Imagine being a director and having the freedom to make a movie with a big studio budget, complete creative freedom, zero pressure regarding box office receipts, etc.

    Also, regarding the Oscars, I think all 3 principles get nominated but none win. I really think Joaquin Pheonix wins the Best Actor (with DeNiro nominated), and I think Brad Pitt gets supporting actor. I think Pitt is the lead in Once Upon a Time, not Leonardo, but the Golden Globes had him as best supporting actor. Best Supporting Actor is loaded this year, but I think the locks for nominations are Pitt, tom Hanks, and at least one of Pesci/Pacino, if not both.

  21. re the beat down of the grocer– yes, De Niro looked a bit like an impatient old man trying to break down a cardboard box for recycling, but maybe it’s a happy (?) accident….. I thought it was a very effective way to show violence as pathetic, uncomfortable, and unnecessary instead of admirable, inevitable and cathartic.

  22. According to his biography (aka footnote in Wikipedia) he is quarter Irish only a quarter Italian!

  23. That sounded weird. Sorry.

  24. I think Pesci will get all the awards love. So hard to choose among the three, but I feel De Niro gives the best overall performance. He’s an unreliable narrator, but everything adjusts to his frequency and it works. Pacino is great too, as this really feels more like a performance of his from 20 years ago than more recent stuff where he really fell into who he was playing, like Phil Spector or Kevorkiak.

    Speaking of HBO, and getting back to De Niro, I really liked him in WIZARD OF LIES as Bernie Madoff. He captures something similar to earlier performances, where in his unlikability lays something deeply interesting. For personal reasons I really resonated with the story of Madoff’s sons after seeing a segment on 60 MINUTES featuring them and their mother/Bernie’s wife, so I was hoping this would be good.

  25. Psychic, that analogy made me bust a gut.
    The new Michael Bay movie with Ryan Reynolds comes out on Netflix on Friday. Bird Box on Netflix had 80 MILLION views on Netflix in the FIRST MONTH! I bet this beats it.

  26. onthewall — I was willing to call THE IRISHMAN the first De Niro film since WAG THE DOG where he looked like he was actually making an effort, so I’m glad to hear maybe there are a few others I haven’t seen. Pacino doesn’t have many bright spots on his resume for the last two decades either (his only performance I really like during that period is MANGLEHORN). If this movie had nothing else going for it at all, it would still have been worth it to give ’em both one last great role, particularly a role which puts them together so effectively (more necessary than ever after the spectacularly awful RIGHTEOUS KILL, which would have been an awful collaboration to end on)

  27. Pacino fares a little better for me in the last two decades than De Niro. INSOMNIA and ANGELS IN AMERICA were really good, and his other work with HBO is nothing to sneeze at either. He’s actually done his first series, with Jordan Peele and Amazon where he plays a Nazi Hunter in the 70’s. Looks very good.


  28. For me, the problem with the de-aging wasn’t the CGI (for the most part, but there were some dodgy moments). The problem was there was this guy supposedly in his forties, a tough-guy type, who was moving around and holding himself like a 70+ year old man. Him kicking the shopkeeper around was particularly painful to watch, and not in the way it was supposed to be.

    I generally enjoyed the writing and acting otherwise (Pesci was fantastic). It didn’t grab me the way many other Scorsese films have. But I’m the odd duck who’s not a big fan of Taxi Driver or Raging Bull either.

  29. onthewall- I actually just rewatched INSOMNIA just a couple weeks ago for the first time since it came out and liked it a lot more than I did the first time. I think basically everyone involved has done better work elsewhere, but it’s damn competent and I think Pacino’s character is really interesting. He’s so unlikable that I wound up wanting more of Hillary Swank’s character to balance him out, and his interplay with Williams’ character is really frustrating (which is really a script complaint), but Pacino seems really invested in the role. It’s not like much else he’s done.

    BrianB – I actually thought the guy in the quick WWII flashback was a completely different actor. Maybe the shot didn’t last long enough for me to really register it.

  30. The original Norwegian version is worth a look. One of the few cases where I can’t say which is better because there are improvements in Nolan’s version, but the original has more subtleties and less predictable as far as mytery/thriller cliches. Stellan Skarsgård plays the lead, and I actually found him less likable but a little more interesting than Pacino’s take on the character.

    Back to Pacino, I forgot to include his performance in OCEAN’S THIRTEEN. Kind of obvious to me that it was based on Trump, but filtered through Al’s gifts and signature scene-chewing style.

  31. I think DeNiro put on a sort of stiffness in Frank from the start, just to give him a body language he could Control as the character got older. That’s my take on why he looks a bit grand pa-ish in the store scene (a set up they’ve borrowed from Tony Soprano, by the way, but he was way more brutal).

  32. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 11th, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    You guys seem pretty excited about this film. But don’t forget, THE IRISHMAN is just the appetizer before Netflix release their REAL main course/masterpiece tomorrow: Michael Bay’s 6 UNDERGROUND!!!

    I, for one, cannot wait.

  33. Did you see the SAG awards nominate this over John Wick 3 for best stunt ensamble?

  34. DeNiro is fantastic in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and (going back a little further) JACKIE BROWN.

  35. I also say without any snark and irony that DeNiro was great in THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY & BULLWINKLE. Say what you want about the movie (I personally like it a lot), but I would say that this is his best comedic performance. (Although I skipped a lot of his comedies, so don’t quote me on that.)

  36. First off, I would like to pat myself on the back for recognizing that I have nothing to add to this discussion and staying the hell out of it…until now.

    I bet De Niro’s reputation is utterly inexplicable to anyone under the age of 35. It is perhaps fitting, considering they once played the same character, that this is how I always felt about Brando. To the generation before mine, his very name is synonymous with “great acting.” But I came to know him in his paycheck-cashing years, so my impression was always, “This mumbling asshole? Really? Him?” He must have been really impressive at the time, but from what I saw, there’s no justification for Brando’s inflated legend, and I’d imagine younger people feel the same about De Niro, who’s been sleepwalking through his roles for longer than a lot of them have been alive. It must feel like the Texas Chainsaw gang swearing Grandpa is the best killer in the family even though he’s too feeble to even hold the hammer.

    I believe I have also used this metaphor to describe Bruce Lee. So maybe take that with a grain of salt.

  37. Mr M,

    I just said the exact same thing about De Niro to a group of friends last week who had also recently watched IRISH MAN. Kids must be perplexed by his enduring legacy. That he’s maintained a sterling reputation despite the fact that we’re 30-40 years past his heyday would be inexplicable except that Boomers love him, and they continue to force the narrative that the ’70s were the best era for movies ever and no other time period came close. (Hey, I love ’70s movies, but there are plenty of other great eras in American cinema, and great movies in all eras). It’s the same with Pacino, who starting turning from an intense, method actor into a huge cornball and over-actor by SCARFACE at the latest. Both have done some good movies and have sometimes been used effectively throughout the years, but the idea that they are the greatest actors of all time, based mostly on a short period of time in the ’70s and ’80s, is fucking laughable.

    Apologies for harping on Boomers so much, I too am sick of hearing “OK Boomer” and never thought it was a funny comeback in the first place, but I understand feeling sick of their bullshit. Even just in pop culture, they’ve been forcing their nostalgia down my throat for my entire life, to a degree that, for instance, Gen X hasn’t. (And I say this as someone who loves some Boomer pop culture, especially ’60s music). I believe that the effusive praise for IRISH MAN is genuine, I’m not calling out anyone here who loved it, but I do think it’s quite overrated, and that more than a little of that is because it’s basically BOOMER SHIT: THE MOVIE.

  38. Once again, COMMUNITY nailed it with this seasonally appropriate jam that I’m like 97% sure Chevy Chase didn’t realize was sarcastic:


    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

  39. To be fair, the characters in IRISH MAN aren’t baby boomers, but the movie has a very much “the ’60s and ’70s were the most important, vivid time period in American history” point of view to it, because that’s how Scorsese sees the world. At least he doesn’t play “Gimme Shelter” in this one, I don’t think. Remember when he put it in “The Departed” over a montage of turmoil in ’60s? Yeesh.

  40. Also, concur on the brilliance of Baby Boomer Santa

  41. I had the great misfortune of watching DIRTY GRANDPA. I hope he really enjoyed that paycheck, because it retroactively killed any cred De Niro ever possessed.

  42. I don’t know. Even in the futuristic year of 2019, young people who consider themselves film buffs are likely to have seen some combination of THE GODFATHER PART II, TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, HEAT and JACKIE BROWN. So I doubt it’s a total mystery to them.

  43. Most kids aren’t movie buffs.

    They’ve also possibly the illustrious FOCKER trilogy, DIRTY GRANDPA, ANALYZE THIS, RIGHTEOUS KILL, LAST VEGAS and not to mention all the other movies over the past 30 years where he’s just, like, fine and not giving any sort of powerhouse performance.

  44. *possibly seen

  45. Dan: I think that’s Robert Zemeckis you’re thinking of. Scorsese never made a movie that euologized his generation to such a cloying degree as FORREST GUMP (and I freaking love that movie). Spielberg kind of did it with CATCH ME IF YOU CAN too.

    Scorsese also knows when not to use the Stones in his movies too, like SHUTTER ISLAND or even WOLF OF WALL STREET, which has only one classic rock song in it at all and it’s by Billy Joel of all people.

  46. Also must note for the record that the most recent movie Vern mentioned is more than 20 years old. I’m sure a lot of people would add IRISH MAN to your list. I, for one, thought he was quite good in RED LIGHTS. But let’s not pretend like this guy’s track record has been remotely impressive for the past 2 decades at least.

  47. onthewall,

    Can’t argue with you on GUMP. I, too, have a soft spot for it, having seen it as a child, and I consider Zemeckis to be one of the all-time great mainstream filmmakers, but that movie is like the #1 prime example of egregious baby boomer nostalgia.

    In the Zemeckis’s favor, BACK TO THE FUTURE is specifically about how people pretend that things were different and better when they were young.

  48. The movies Vern mentioned are more likely to be replayed on cable television or featured up front on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime than the ones you mentioned, Dan.

  49. I have some thoughts:

    1. I am glad to see Pacino in a Scorcese movie with the rest of the boys, finally! But I was very skeptical about him playing Hoffa. He’s just not Hoffa to me. Honestly his weird hair was more distracting to me than any of the CG De-aging. Other than hitting certain words really hard with the Michigan (?) accent, he’s really just Pacino.

    I’m a little biased because I’ve always been so impressed with Jack Nicholson’s sincere turn as Hoffa in the Hoffa movie that he did with Danny DeVito. But still, Pacino just didn’t work as Hoffa for me.

    2. Armchair producer take: I wish Keitel had played Hoffa, Pacino had played Russell Buffalino, and Pesci had played Angelo Buono.

    3. As far as DeNiro not acting Irish, that’s no problem, but the movie should then not have been called “The Irishman”. (I’m kind of a stickler for titles). One of the other gangsters does call him “Irishman” one time late in the movie like it was a familiar nickname for him, which would be a good reason for the title, but that only happens the one time in a 3 hour movie. Just not enough to “justify” having that be the title.

    4. There were two slow-motion sequences for which I do not understand the point of the use of slow-motion: The wedding and the assassination attempt on Joe Columbo. Neither of those events were particularly important to the overall story, and I don’t know what the use of slo-mo was supposed to convey.
    Particularly at the wedding… They made a point of lingering on all these guys with a weird look on their face, but I’m not sure why.

    5. As far as the acting goes, it was fine. The roles really weren’t really demanding though. Everyone but Hoffa was reallly chilled out. Even when DeNiro is super worried, his Frank is the kind of guy who expresses that by sitting still and looking at the wall.

    6. I agree about DeNiro’s eyes, they were very jarring. Extremely blue, and sometimes I swear he had goat-pupils.

  50. onthewall2983,

    I don’t want to get into a nitpicky argument here, but:

    1) younger people are watching less live TV than older people, and are more likely to be “cord cutters,” so the cable TV thing applies less to them

    2) this is just my gut talking, but I doubt more young people have seen HEAT than have seen MEET THE PARENTS

  51. Dan: Which is why I also mentioned Netflix and others, too.


    I’ve been on it for almost 5 years now but I get the feeling that Letterboxd leans more towards people in their 20s and 30s, with older film fans a big presence too, but not as big. And as you can see from the way his films are listed in terms of popularity with their users, his classics still resonate with younger film fans. I can’t speak to just the average 20-something or teenager, which I get you’re trying to.

  52. I have been able to be around many college kids who are excited about film, and it’s heartening to me how many are interested in some of the same movies and directors I (or my more cultured/knowledgeable peers) were interested in at that age. Plus the bonus of more attention given to directors like Friedkin and Mann, who have increased in reputation during the Blu-Ray era. I assumed you were talking about those type of kids, since I don’t know why anybody else would ever take time to wonder whether De Niro’s filmography was worthy of his reputation as a great actor. But sure, if you’re talking about normal people, they would just know him from MEET THE FOCKERS and now JOKER.

  53. Letterboxd also leans more towards people who watch a lot of movies, not casual moviegoers. It’s also pretty heavily male, and not really a great indicator of broader, general tastes.

  54. Yeah, I would assume that people who love movies would, you know, watch older movies. Mr. M and I were talking about younger people in general, who are still being told by older people that he’s one of the all-time greats, when they would think of him as the mumbly guy who wore the fake boobs in a stupid Ben Stiller movie they saw when they were 10.

    More broadly, though, I would say that De Niro’s overall body of work does not have a high batting average and that he has declined over time and that maybe some of us older-millennial and Gen X types ought to consider the idea that he’s mostly coasted on a reputation that he no longer deserves. I don’t say that to diminish the excellent work he has sometimes done, I’m just saying we probably can stop revering the guy at this point.

    If it’s not obvious at this point, I’m a big fan of killing sacred cows.

  55. I can’t really be here for shitting on Robert De Niro. His uneven-to-shitty late-90s to present day output notwithstanding, dude’s jersey is retired and absolutely should be. He’s a GOAT, and that’s not hype. Go watch CAPE FEAR. Go watch him in COP LAND. Someone else mentioned JACKIE BROWN. FLAWLESS. I’ll defend his work in the first MEET THE PARENTS. ANGEL HEART. And that’s not even his most revered, early Scorsese work, it’s mostly obscure shit from his alleged “he’s a shitty overrated hack perod.” Batting average is irrelevant. The quality of your best shit is relevant. De Niro’s best shit competes with anyone’s best shit. Period. That’s some pimp slap-worthy talk.

    And I’m also not here for this generational warfare. The implication: If I and those of my generation had been your generation at your moment in history (and without all that we know and see now), we would have done better as a generation, because, what, we’re a superior stock of person that would have resisted the cultural pressures and historical forces of our particular moment. It’s like generation racism. No, not me, if I were a teenager now, I wouldn’t use TikTok, and I’d go out to the movies in the theater, and I’d get a lot of exercise. No, not me, if I’d been born in 1920, I would’ve been so much more fucking woke. That’s some seriously next-level deluded, non-empathic, lazy, broad-brush stereotyping shit.

  56. You know what, fuck Nas. When was the last time Nas put out a decent album? What a fucking hack he turned out to be. Fucking Eminem, he fell off. What has he done for me lately, just a grumpy old man. Jay-Z and the Rolling Stones, fucking sellout overrated pieces of shit still milking their undeserved glory years. LL Cool J, that guy has done anything decently musically since MR. SMITH. What a prick.

  57. “I have been able to be around many college kids…”

    Are you following in Mr Majestyk’s footsteps here, Vern?

  58. Hey, nobody put a gun to DeNiro’s head and forced him to make Dirty Grandpa (at least I don’t think they did). His resume is what it is. You can make some crappy movies and give some completely shit performances and it doesn’t diminish the past. Anyone remember Pacino in Jack and Jill trying to fuck Adam Sandler? I do, but I still watch the Godfather 5 or 6 times a year, and he still floors me in it every time.

    Springsteen has made some good albums in the last 20 years, some pretty forgettable albums too. But he still made Born to Run. Can’t change that.

    DeNiro could have encased himself in carbonite in the 80’s and just made 5 movies a year, prestige projects if he wanted, and protected his legacy. He didn’t. But I don’t think he damaged it too much either.

  59. BTW, I realized the only reason I made the above post was to remind people about Pacino trying to fuck Adam Sandler in drag.

  60. I never said anything about the quality of De Niro’s work. I never even said that the hypothetical younger generation was right to hypothetically dismiss him. It was more a comment about how sometimes what’s great about someone or something can get lost in time, which is why I brought up Brando. Its not that Brando stopped being great, but that the passage of time had made that greatness difficult for the next generation to perceive. My comment was about how reputations get enshrined and how that can be confusing for those who weren’t there for the enshrining.

    I mean, is this that controversial a notion? How many Douglas Fairbanks movies you guys watch? He used to be a very big deal. What about Clark Gable? You guys big Clark Gable fans? To earlier generations of movie lovers, it would be unthinkable not to laud him as one of the great movie stars. But time moves on and we had our own movie stars. We didn’t just take our grandparents’ word for it. We made up our own minds. I don’t think the idea that young people aren’t and have no reason to be obsessed with the heroes of someone else’s past is that crazy an idea.

  61. One thing I wold have liked a little clarity on was, what was going on in 1980 that caused so many of the characters to get killed that particular year? I’ll have to check out the book.

  62. I hate to break it to you but we love in a bubble. Most kids aren’t movie geeks like us. Stop pretending things were better in any generation.

  63. I don’t even know who anybody’s responding to anymore.

  64. Thomas: Had to make way for Reagan

  65. In a way, it’s interesting and perhaps instructive to note that Pacino and De Niro have lasted as long as they have. Even if they haven’t seen his best work, the kids definitely know who they are, what their reputation is. Meanwhile, Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds, who were at one point their contemporaries and probably even more celebrated, have almost completely disappeared from memory, as their latter box office amply demonstrates. I saw Fay Dunawaye in THE BYE BYE MAN a few years back, and appeared to be the only person in the theater who thought that was noteworthy.

    My point is, these guys must be doing something right. If I had to take a guess, I’d say that their staying power has to do with the fact that they consistently did genre work, rather than completely focus on highbrow drama stuff which tends to get hugely celebrated at the time and quickly forgotten. Highbrow genre work has staying power because it’s something you can get into as a kid that transitions nicely into a venerable dad movie. That gives it a much longer lifespan than almost any other kind of art.

  66. My comment is for anyone who wants to go beyond being critical of Dr Niro’s second half of career work (fair) and go beyond saying they personally don’t care for his films (all or a subset) to make the much more sweeping and ridiculously cynical and lazy and mean-spirited up is down claim that, actually, he’s just an overrated hack whose later work mystically undoes or cancels out his earlier work.

    The other part of my comment is for the growing trend of shitting on entire generation cohorts (other than one’s own) for sport, which is just another subspecies of lazy, self-righteous tribalism.

    There is a mix of both in the above thread.

    I don’t really know the work of Clark Gable or Henry Fonda, but you also won’t catch me pissing on their graves for my own aggrandizement.

  67. To Mr. M’s point about Gable and Fairbanks, that old Hollywood style of movies is largely forgotten now and I’d say for pretty good reasons. At least what Pacino and De Niro did in their seminal 70’s work, was based in a more grounded reality that Hollywood wouldn’t touch until the 60’s when the world began to change. They and other peers of that generation made characters based in more the real world and would resonate deeper with audiences. Eastwood did largely the same with the Westerns (he both starred in and directed anyway) he did around the same time too.

  68. Again, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a film with either of these guys (I know I haven’t seen GONE WITH THE WIND), but there is some good old shit. I can’t speak to how much is in the “old Hollywood style” or what that is, but for example, the old Universal monsters stuff is good. Old Hitchcock is good. CITIZEN KANE is good. Bergman is good. CHARADE with Cary Grant is good, and the Jimmy Stewart Hitchcock films are pure gold (last I checked VERTIGO was the SIGHT AND SOUND critics top film of all time.

    Pivoting to the 70s, I think the main thing that the Scorsese/Coppola/Lucas/Carpenter/Craven/Spielberg/Polanski/Lumet/early Malick/mid-late Kubrick (etc) era did was give us a less affected (still mannered in its own way), less treacly, more cynical, world-weary, darker, experimental form of cinema to round out the more fluffy, happy-ending stuff (which also has its place). Alongside this dark and more emotionally nuanced storytelling was the emergenced of the blockbuster.

  69. I definitely would not be one to throw the baby out with the bath water in terms of movies made largely before the 60’s. I just haven’t seen a lot of them, including the ones you mention Skani, but hope to at some point. A name you mentioned was Henry Fonda and I think 12 ANGRY MEN and his performance definitely holds up. It helped set the stage, along with ON THE WATERFRONT and the other movies Brando did, and what James Dean did too, with what happened later on in the 60’s and 70’s.

    Another name I would throw out in this regard is Sam Peckinpah. Everyone associates him most with THE WILD BUNCH and how transgressive and transformative it was in terms of not just the violence but how violent and complicated the characters were. But RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is one that is as transgressive in it’s portrayal of the Old West as well. It’s definitely of that old Hollywood I can’t relate too, but with enough implicitly told in it’s storytelling that I can identify with as easily as I did WILD BUNCH or PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID.

  70. I will give 12 ANGRY MEN a try. On my old movies to watch list are WILD STRAWBERRIES, SUNSET BLVD and THE OLD DARK HOUSE. WINTER LIGHT by Bergman is a beautiful film that I think inspired FIRST REFORMED (haven’t seen the latter).

    CAPE FEAR with De Niro was really great, last I watched it. Plus, it’s fun to see a very different era and look/feel of Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, and Juliette Lewis, all giving really great performances (plus, cameos from who-the-hell-are-they greatest generation overrated pieces of shit and original CAPE FEAR stars Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck). Weird, creepy, transgressive, great performances, suspenseful, very unique production design, wonderful score. It’s been 15 years since I saw it, so maybe I’m an unreliable narrator, but last I checked it’s the total package.

  71. Skani: I don’t see who you’re arguing against. No one is suggesting that we must throw out every older actor or movie. God no. My point was about how generations have no obligation to uphold the hero worship of previous generations. What was revolutionary to one generation can be old hat to another. We CHOOSE which icons of the past continue to hold meaning for us. We don’t let that decision be foisted on us by our parents or grandparents. Which works and creators survive and which fade is a strange and unpredictable process of pop cultural natural selection. It doesn’t take away from the work itself, though, nor should it change how each individual viewer feels about it.

    For example: Eric Clapton. It was once common for people of the 60s and 70s to say “Clapton is God.” This perception was not, to put it lightly, continued by succeeding generations. Is Clapton less of a guitar player? Not really. It’s just his legend that diminished. I wonder which other Boomer heroes will face similar fates.

  72. @skani: There were plenty of darker, cynical movies with unhappy before the 1970s. There’s a whole genre/movement—film noir—filled with them, and directors like Billy Wilder (also an old guy to me growing up that annoyed me because his comedies always came up in trivia games that I didn’t know.) I think you’ve seen too many documentaries and read too many books that idolize and aggrandize 1970s filmmaking (filmmakers that I love too but)

  73. BrianB, I’m aware of noir, and I mentioned older Hitchcock and SUNSET BLVD above. I have not watched/read all of the things you seem to imagine I have. I’ve read a handful of books on horror film, no books on general cinema history, and no film documentaries that weren’t DVD extras (or ROOM 237).

    Majestyk, my comments are not directed specifically at you. Why do you always imagine yourself at the eye of the storm of criticism or debate, even in threads involving many other interlocutors? My comments are directed to undertones you can find throughout the latter part of this thread. If you disagree that those undertones exist in various comments, by all means ignore me. Bona fide critique with a constructive purpose is vital, and De Niro *has* done a lot of shit paycheck movies in the last 20 years, probably mostly such movies. But he has also turned in fine performances in every decade, and he has every right to be proud of the incredible accomplishments of his career — including especially this film, the IRISHMAN. It’s no great, out-on-a-limb observation to say that he’s done a lot of dreck in the last two decades. What I object to is using this thread about this excellent film and exemplary De Niro performance as a springboard to shame him for the lowlights in his nevertheless remarkable career and to engage in broad-brush stereotyping and repudiation of some monolithic “boomer consciousness” that is equal parts sinister and out-of-touch and culpable for all of the world’s problems that would have been handled so much better by subsequent generations.

  74. (Side note: I’m also not here for trashing millenials, though I confess I’ve done it in the past. It’s lazy and mean-spirited, and I hereby repent of it).

  75. To a degree, I think the controlled physicality of Frank is a choice by De Niro. But there’s really no way to defend that “choice”—if it was a choice —when it comes to the store front scene. That scene is pivotal to why his family and daughters can’t trust telling their father problems they have because he’ll become a terrifying whirlwind. Instead he’s physically not threatening, coordinated, or fast and his victim helps him out leaving his hand out there. Watching it is probably like watching Roberto Duran go beat someone up now. Even if you look at all the flashbacks as this guy mostly Forrest Gunp-omg himself into everything and aggrandizing himself—aside from the moments that cue us directly into how he’s an unreliable narrator like his convictions—there’s no way Frank would recall himself moving like that during that scene. That falls on De Niro and Scorsese for not doing the scene another way.

    Still De Niro got other scenes that are great, especially with Pacino and Pesci—De Niro remains one of the best actors I’ve seen at thinking and deliberating a decision on screen. After Ronin and about 1998, his movies and performances have been very hit and miss as others have mentioned but it’s good to see he’s still got his fastball sometimes.

    In terms of dramatic actors, outside of Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Peter Fonda, and John Garfield, there aren’t a ton of naturalistic but volcanic actors in Hollywood before Brando and Cliff and other method actors hit Hollywood around 1950. But Bogart, Mitchum, Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Burt Lancaster and others are still interesting actors and presences in movies. I imagine in 30 years, there will be people that think Denzel Washington and Daniel Day Lewis are overrated actors not worthy of their legendary reputations. I guess that’s how things go.

  76. Mr. M: Clapton’s legend began to diminish as Hendrix’s grew larger. Didn’t really help any as he went on into the 70’s, doing much simpler songs and playing less like the guitar avatar people had made him out to be. Even worse is the reputation he had among concert-goers as someone who would go on stage completely drunk and would slur his way through the show (even racially, at one controversial point). He regained a little of that ground in the 80’s and 90’s when he started producing slicker more produced music, cleaned up from drugs and alcohol and let it rip on the guitar more at shows. Today he still has the legend of the body of work, but I don’t think is as revered as a guitar player in that sense, compared to guys like Hendrix or Jeff Beck (who’s playing has stayed at a rather premium level of technique and innovation).

    It’s funny you brought up Clapton, since the track that plays over the end credits, features Derek Trucks. He was named after “Derek” Clapton, his uncle an original member of the Allman Brothers Band. Duane Allman played on the LAYLA AND ORIGINAL LOVE SONGS album, and the title track which of course features in GOODFELLAS.


  77. In Defense of Peggy's Silence in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman | Balder and Dash | Roger Ebert

    I have come to appreciate silence not as a sign of weakness or capitulation, but as a finely sharpened dagger that finds its way to the heart, every time.

    Great little piece on Paquin’s character, if anyone’s interested.

  78. The storefront scene was the only really distracting moment for me.

    I love this thing and I’ve already seen it twice. I think the pacing is exquisite. That phone call scene is one of De Niro’s best acting moments since…. um…

  79. That is, on the CG side of things. The most distracting visual effect for me overall was probably Domenick Lombardozzi’s Norbit-esque fat suit.

  80. Was it a fat suit? I recognized him and then thought “No… is it?” But I don’t know if I’ve seen him in anything in many years so I don’t know what he looks like now.

  81. Fat suits are only really distracting if the person wearing it is standing. I think he’s either sitting or laying down in all of his scenes.

    I didn’t think much of the storefront scene except how it was shot from a clear distance from the action. Maybe would have been better to play it off of Peggy’s face, since she is the impetus for what is happening.

  82. Film noir and the historical evolution of darker thematic content in film came up earlier in this thread, and I wanted to report back after having recently watched DETOUR and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER on Criterion. Both great films. Really compelling work. DETOUR is a little campier but is a quick win. NotH is really great and haunting. Robert Mitchum and Shelly Winters are both dynamite. You can see where Mitchum’s character might have inspired the “how I got these scars” beat in DARK KNIGHT. The child actors are also fantastic. The film really captures something of grim, Great Depression era circumstances, and the theme of predation and exploitation in human relationships and in the animal kingdom (some almost Lychian wildlife shots). Both highly recommended.

  83. I haven’t seen DETOUR (always meant to) but NIGHT OF THE HUNTER really is great. Way ahead of its time. You can see its DNA in everything from David Lynch to Tim Burton to John Waters to Joe Lansdale. Any movie about a great evil lurking right in plain sight amidst bucolic Americana is likely in conversation with NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. It’s also one of the best-looking black and white movies ever made.

  84. I agree with NIGHT OF THE HUNTER although I think it falls a bit apart in its second half. Not too dramatic, though. it stays great till the end.

  85. Yes, it’s a gorgeous film. You could even argue that MUD has echoes of this. That scene of Shelly Winters under the water. Oof. And, yes, the sort of dark, twisted Norman Rockwell qualities.

    It’s not a perfect film. It often feels like two different movies, but each is interesting in its own right. And it’s quietly rather powerful in how it wrestles with questions of hope and despair, repressed and suppressed female sexuality, the community-binding, norm-reinforcing, and protective forces of folk religion. There is this interesting theme here and in classical westerns where the natural state of humanity is to be violent, predatory, and exploitative, and how community and security is always tenuous, held together by a mix of self-interest, old-fashioned neighborly concern and do-unto-others thinking, and a good measure of fire-and-brimstone spirituality, eye for an eye capital punishment as public theater for both deterrent and collective emotional purging purposes. Powerful stuff that clearly underlies a lot of the libertarian ethos and mentality.

  86. DETOUR, on the other hand, does a really good job in capturing the greasy, sweaty, paranoid, fever dream claustrophobia of bad shit just piling up and escalating. Whereas NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is pastoral but not in an idyllic way, it’s very much rural desperation, isolation, and despair, and there is this motif of children fleeing collapsed families and collapsed communities, begging their way through a meager and perilous existence. One is pastoral, the other urban. Both of them find desperate protagonists in desperate circumstances of hand-to-mouth existence on the run and at the mercy of bad luck and broken huckster-predators exploiting gullible or marginal people.

    NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is ultimately more upbeat and offers the hope that if you hang on long enough, you can find truly virtuous people and simple comforts of fragile, hard-earned family and community. This is the saving grace of rural living, where people are rooted in their communities, small businesses, property ownership, tethering them to a common good/lot.

    DETOUR has no vision of community or hope, just lonely if populous cities, lonely desolate highways, roadside diners, people trying to make their way to the next place, where their luck will turn around. The film treks from NYC to Los Angeles, its protagonists chasing fame, money, or love from coast to coast. Everyone is trapped in their own egocentric dream, chasing waterfalls, pushing past other people and pushing away other people, shoving through the crowd chasing some pipe dream that promises happiness. Our protagonist Al Roberts is the most sympathetic character, the only one who shows some sign of compromising, settling, putting down roots. At the start of the film, he seems to be coming to terms that he’ll never make it as a bigtime pianist, and he longs to marry his girl. She’s not ready to give up the dream of fame, so he chases her to California. He is the only one really searching for and believing in love and commitment and building the kind of simple, dignified, rooted life that is idealized in the final 1/3 of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Everyone else seems to be trying to outrun the past or else is bewitched by a romanticized pipe dream of a future or both. In true noir fashion, it’s the naive, earnest sad sack mope who has good intentions but gets crossed up as collateral damage in a mix of bad luck/timing and bad-news people.

  87. DETOUR is one of my absolute favorites. I return to it often. Ulmer’s work there is a constant inspiration to a low budget genre filmmaker. I love it to pieces.

  88. Skani, I’m totally confused by some of your posts. A few weeks ago, one of your comments said: (plus, cameos from who-the-hell-are-they greatest generation overrated pieces of shit and original CAPE FEAR stars Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck) and I read that like 20 times trying to figure out whether you were joking and I still haven’t quite figured it out. But then you came back praising Mitchum in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER so now I’m even more confounded. Either way, I would recommend that you watch OUT OF THE PAST next. Interestingly, I notice that Vern’s Badass 100 includes quite a few noir movies that aren’t reviewed on the site (including both of the above Mitchum flicks). I would love to see Vern do a series of noir reviews sometime, particularly my favourite one KISS ME DEADLY.

    As for the IRISHMAN, I finally got to watch this because I threw my back out last week and had to lay on the floor for a couple of days straight. I guess fate just really wanted me to make time for it. I’m actually lucky enough that Dublin has some great movie theaters which are still showing this but on the other hand I’m glad I watched it at home because it goes on for WAY too long at the end. The movie itself was good, I liked it quite a bit, but it doesn’t come anywhere near Scorsese’s best. It’s funny – Majestyk made a comment on another review that I found really strange; something about not bothering with movies that he knows he will only see once. That’s really weird to me because I would say at least 80-90% of things I watch going in with the expectation that I won’t see it again. Most Scorsese movies would be in the 10% that I expect to see least a few times…but I think once was plenty enough for the IRISHMAN.

    And I can’t tell if you guys are being sarcastic about Anna Paquin being nominated for awards. I will just assume you are because WTF are you talking about? Nothing against her, it’s just that her role in this is basically non-existent.

    Also, the CGI…I didn’t even notice it to be honest. Like, it seemed to me that they all just looked old at all times?

  89. The Robert Mitchum thing was a joke. I don’t think he’s a piece of shit. Thanks for the recommendation!

  90. Seen this three times now, and I find the length and scope of the thing wonderful. One of the best movies of the 2010s, no doubt.

  91. Can’t believe nobody has commented on how amazing Stephen Graham is in this as Tony Pro!

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