The Irishman: The End of an Era?

Martin Scorsese yet again teams up with Robert De Niro for his latest film, “The Irishman.” Alongside De Niro, notable actors included in the cast are Al Pacino and the formerly retired Joe Pesci.

Its supporting cast contains equally well-known seasoned actors such as Ray Romano and Harvey Keitel. 

It was shown in select cinemas on Nov. 1 and will face wide distribution through Netflix streaming on Nov. 27, 2019, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The Irishman” is based on the book, “I Heard You Paint Houses” written by former prosecutor, investigator and defense attorney Charles Brandt. Much like its source material, the film chronicles the life of Frank Sheeran, an alleged mafia hitman for the Buffalino Crime Family who was known by his moniker, “The Irishman.” 

Sheeran helped facilitate organized crime activity into labor unions and personally claimed to have murdered his companion and employer Jimmy Hoffa, the former President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The role of Hoffa is portrayed by Pacino. 

“I’m certainly glad I got to work with Martin Scorsese, I’ll tell you that much,” Pacino said in an interview with USA Today, “so much goes into making certain films and it takes more time than you account for. That’s what happened here.”

In past interviews, De Niro voiced the pleasure of having the opportunity to work amongst Pacino for a fourth time. Movies that they have starred together in are, “The Godfather II,” “Heat” and “Righteous Kill,” which unlike the former films, received overwhelmingly negative reactions upon its release. 

In an October interview with Variety, De Niro recalled how he felt during Rome’s release of “Righteous Kill.” There, he turned to Pacino and subtly expressed his disappointment with the roles they took on.

“I said, ‘This is a great reaction, but it would be nice if they were here for a movie that we really feel proud about. Next time we’ll do one we like.’”

However, it would take years for such a movie to exist. “The Irishman” spent years in development hell, with its first development phase beginning in 2007. Additionally, studios were reluctant to produce a three-hour long film with a budget of $150 million dollars, further making its potential for existence dubious. Still, Scorsese was determined to make his vision seen by the public. 

“Robert read Charles Brandt’s book when he was doing ‘The Good Shepherd.’ He gave it to me,” Scorsese said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I saw he was connected with the character and we’ve been wanting to make something together since ‘Casino.’ I realized he really cares about the character, and that it’s something that could be moving. So I figured we’d take the trip. It took a while. It’s very special that we got it made.”’

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Rather than finding young male actors who would portray De Niro and Pacino in their youth, Scorsese took a non-traditional approach by using de-aging visual effects (VFX) for his leading stars who are respectively 76 and 79 years old. In an interview, Scorsese would admit that he initially held doubt if VFX was capable to de-age the actors in a believable way. 

Therefore in 2015, prior to the principal photography he tested the technology by having De Niro recreate one of his scenes in “Goodfellas.” Satisfied with the results, Scorsese would move on. 

Still, everything did not piece together with ease. During a May appearance on “A Bigger Canvas” podcast, Scorsese spoke about his continuous worry for not just the fact the public was accustomed to seeing the older faces of these widely renowned actors, but because of more subtle matters he deemed vital to conveying concealed messages. 

“Certain shots need more work on the eyes,” he explained, “need more work on why these are exactly the same eyes from the plate shot, but the wrinkles and things have changed. Does it change the eyes at all? If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?” 

On Nov. 1, De Niro publicly voiced his doubts in the ability to work on another film with his long-time collaborators Scorsese, Pacino and Pesci. “I don’t see us putting on a movie like this. I hope we do other films together, but like this? Not likely. This is it.” 

Due to the fact that Scorsese is known for the most iconic films centered on organized crime as well as gritty urban life such as, “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver,” it is being widely speculated that this could mark the end of his iconic take on the gangster genre as we know it.

Netflix dropped their final trailer for the Irishmen yesterday. (Netflix/YouTube)

All the same, “The Irishman” has received critical acclaim during its preview screenings as well as its short time in theatres. For the rest of the public, it will without a doubt be strange to see Scorsese’s work outside a cinema yet, considering the glowing reviews it’s received, “The Irishman” is likely to remain a thrilling experience to view in the privacy of your home over the holiday.

Ayzha Middlebrooks

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