Directed by the master of his craft Martin Scorsese (Casino, Goodfellas), The Irishman brings together the heaviest hitters in cinema like both a comeback and farewell to the aging tour de force talent supporting it. A combat veteran looking to put his talents to good use finds a place for himself as he becomes first a hit man, and then somewhat of a historical game changer in this underdog story. Crime meets politics in a shockingly true tale.
Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is a World War II combat veteran who comes back home to the USA, which is reeling from the side effects of war. As the narrator of his own story, he's as honest as he is unreliable. He pulls himself through hard times delivering meat, coincidentally to some powerful people who back him up when he's accused of theft, and he doesn't rat out any of his clients.
Mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) takes Frank under his wing, in part because he sees the utility in having a man who needs work and is capable of both violence and staying quiet. The Bufalino family takes care of their people and provides plenty of opportunities for Frank to prove his loyalty.
Union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) becomes friends with the Bufalino family, Frank in particular. Through Hoffa's mafia ties, his rise to fame draws him into sharp conflict with other union leaders, and Hoffa finds that his power grows in conjunction with his conflicts. He hires Frank on as his personal bodyguard to guarantee his safety in a violent and tumultuous world.
Over time, Frank has created his own blood family inside of his mob family. Pushed to the brink, he must carefully balance the value of his own life against doing the right thing and serving others who were good to him.
The Irishman is like a highlight reel recap of an older man who has plenty of stories to tell, to which he can now personally relate, and he is properly equipped to deal with the requisite feelings. Scorsese draws out fine performances from an all-star cast just waiting to be told how much or how little the scene deserves. The lack of female presence is both surprising in that it has become standard fare for modern cinema, but also fitting for the male-dominated generations throughout which this story is told.
Written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, American Gangster) who adapted the book "I Heard You Paint Houses," by Charles Brandt, The Irishman delivers on its expectations, in part due to its well-written script. A movie only runs long if it feels like it, and every minute of this film seems to add to the intensely intricate and wonderful, decades-long world building.
Ultimately, there is so much happening in The Irishman that it's almost a double feature, which is perfect for fans of the genre. For anyone reticent to see yet another gangster picture, this is the cream of the crop, and it warrants a watch from even the fussiest of cinephiles.