Director: Martin Scorsese
Tribeca Productions, Sikella Productions, Winkler Films / Netflix
A standing ovation for the victory lap. That seems to be the decision. Scorsese’s The Irishman, a bloated, mostly boring mini-series of a movie is the final full-stop (actually it’s a meandering dot-dot-dot) on his 50-year fascination with gangster stories.
Telling the tale of a charismatic mobster goon in 2019 was never going to be the best move. Power-crazy rule-breaking thugs are running the world. To celebrate them in celluloid doesn’t seem the way. But that aside, the film – and the dribbling, fawning reception it’s receiving – is a Fair Play Trophy.
I love Scorsese. I’ve loved many of his gangster tales – Goodfellas in particular but like a lot of septuagenarian whities he’s had a fucking good run. And his childish bashing of Marvel movies is ironic given the stretched, inexcusable 200-minute run-time of this snore-fest. (I’ve been forced to watch the Marvel films, as a parent of a kid in that zone at this time and I’m not about to say they’re great at all but they do what you expect from reading the tin and old mate Marty liking or hating them is king kong-level irrelevance with a self-served side-order of smug).
Scorsese frames beautifully, sets up his ultra slow-mo wizardry to the perfect 50s and 60s soundtrack – I mean it’s almost like ordering from Alamy at this point.
Really, this was more about getting the gang back together – and De Niro, Pacino and Pesci all do very good work here, but the decision to CGI them back from the future to vacuum-packed wax-figurines is cruel and strange and unsatisfactory. And the walk-on by Keitel seems cruel too, a waste.
The Irishman is not without its moments – the Kennedy election and then execution is a compelling piece of American history, and this side-view of it is well pondered, and there’s a poignancy to the scenes. A subtly to the story-telling here too.
But there’s nowhere near enough heart. And the indulgent run-time kills any momentum or meaning.
But much like when Bruce Springsteen released his middling-af response-to-tragedy album, The Rising, it was time to celebrate him as a hero; to take the current snapshot as being the banner-ad for the whole career and to instruct everyone it is time to celebrate a hard-working genius.
The Oscars turned into a Lifetime Achievement Series a long time ago with name-actors and directors getting the gong finally for something not-quite-their-best work, but their latest and so in adherence to longevity it was made to fit as their greatest. That’s the case here too.
That campaign was put in place with the first mentions of The Irishman happening, and then around it being Netflix’s big coup; big statement. We were being groomed to worship at the feet of a filmmaker who has, of course, made some amazing, often astounding work. A director uncompromising in his quest to tell dark, compelling stories.
The Irishman is neither dark nor compelling. It’s an exquisitely made snooze-fest. I’m all for the power of a story and for learning from twisted souls and bad people and flawed characters. But in 2019 celebrating entitled old, apparently lovable rogues…nah. Not unless it’s served with some visceral knife-shots, some edge. Some heart. Or even a smattering of awareness.
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