Living his final years in a nursing home, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) recalls his tumultuous life. Starting as a truck driver, he befriends criminal Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and becomes the chief bodyguard’s of questionable Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Frank will be the silent and ruthless witness of years of corruption, bribes and murders which will see criminal families thrive and US Presidents fall (the ghost of JFK still haunts America’s history) but this kind of war never ends with winners and loneliness and remorse are waiting for him at the end of his journey…
Based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt which claimed to find a solution to the mysterious disappearance of flamboyant Jimmy Hoffa, this three hours and thirty minutes elegy signs the return of Scorsese to the genre he masterfully cultivated in the past with movies like “Goodfellas” and “Casinò”. But, if there were adrenaline and high spirits in those titles, “The Irishman” is a meditation on aging, a cold dark exploration of the sunset of a world which pretended to be glamorous but, when not shot, ended up in solitary retirement houses or hospitals. A proof is the extraordinary performance by Joe Pesci, who Scorsese took out of retirement, usually a “higher than life” character in his movies and now a silent sphinx, an enigmatic and quiet ambassador of Fate which finds his perfect mate in the subtlety of De Niro’s Frank and the counterpart in the overwhelming performance by Pacino, describing Hoffa as a powerful and magnificent loose cannon, completely unaware of his flaws.
If Scorsese indulges a bit too long at the beginning in building his settings up, the final hour contains some of his best cinema, much more closer to the meditations expressed in “Silence” than in the twists and turns of “The Wolf of Wall Street”. As usual, his collaborators (Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto, Costume Designer Sandy Powell) are essential in the recreation of a world of crime which is not fascinating at all but weighted by a perennial sense of death and despair.
“The Irishman” is nominated for five Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Steven Zaillian) and Best Supporting Actor (both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci).