Know Your Place

The Irishman
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel, Jesse Plemons, Steven Van Zandt and Stephen Graham
Director: Martin Scorsese
Scriptwriter: Steven Zaillian from the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt
Composer: Robbie Robertson
Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto
Tribeca Productions/Netflix
Rating: R for violence, profanity and themed material
Running Length: 210 Minutes 

Films are starting to arrive onscreen for Oscar nomination time.  Watch for nominations for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematographer, and Soundtrack for  “The Irishman." This is a Martin Scorsese film and involves Jimmy Hoffa, mobsters and the time period of the 1950s and on, where Edward Norton’s film, “Motherless Brooklyn” is also set.

“The Irishman” is about Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who ends up being an enforcer for the mob. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, while Joe Pesci is Russell Bufalino, a mobster. You will be surprised to see Ray Romano play a serious role as the mob attorney, Bill Bufalino. This film has a stellar cast and each actor has their moment. Basically, “Whatever happened to Jimmy Hoffa?” is given an opportunity.  Other actors in any of the scenes are the soundtrack by Robbie Robertson and cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto.  The music and camera flow seamlessly from scene to scene. You are tempted to see the film twice to catch all of the popular songs and their artists. However, be prepared for 210 minutes to see the film. 

The story follows the world of Frank Sheeran from a younger man to an old man.  Frank moves from driving a truck to driving a car to doing odd jobs for pay and eventually, gets into the inner circle of the mob. Russell and Frank meet casually, but later, Russell remembers him, takes him under his wing and guides him with loyalty upward through the rungs of the mob ladder.  You see that everyone in the mob has a nick name, from Sheeran (“The Irishman”) to “Skinny Razor” to “Crazy Joe" to “Tony Pro.” Along the way, Frank meets a mob attorney, Bill, other mob bosses from the Eastern part of the U.S.  and then Jimmy Hoffa. At first, all is well between the mob and Hoffa, but then someone gets too big for their boots, and when you go against the mob, well, things happen. We also are privy to family life of the mobsters, who are generous with their families, and money always soothes bad feelings. We follow a time line with John F. Kennedy as President and his brother, Bobby, as Attorney General and an irritant to the mob. Between politics, the mob and Jimmy Hoffa, something has to give, and it does. 

There are no major women’s roles in this movie, with the exception of Anna Paquin, who is Frank’s rebellious daughter. Otherwise, women make their own rules within their families, prepare meals and stay out of the way of “family business.” Anna Paquin keeps an expressionless face throughout as though she is distant from the cast. 

Robert De Niro’s Frank keeps a straight face as he gets further into the mob, and body language is kept at a minimum. Joe Pesci steals his scenes as the guy pulling the strings and knowing everything about everybody. It takes a moment to recognize Ray Romano as an attorney, only when he speaks do you recognize his voice.  It is Al Pacino who plays the bombastic Jimmy Hoffa, sometimes over the top, but you grasp the man who doesn’t want anyone to control him. 

The time period goes from the 1950s and into the 1980s, including fashions and expensive cars.  This was a time when mobs ruled territories, much like little countries, and you had to get along with your neighbors in order to survive.  Woe to the person who crossed boundaries to commit an indiscretion. The government was bought and paid for, from the local police to high officials. Money was gained through gambling, extortion, stealing and anything else that was illegal, but could turn a profit.

The lighting of some interiors will remind you of “The Godfather” films, and there are certain scenes (a baptism, for example) that bring a resemblance to “Godfather."  “The Irishman” stands alone in that it is about a specific person and the incidents surrounding him. The term, “do you paint houses,” refers to "are you a paid assassin?"  I found the time length of the film adequate to convey the story line and time passes quickly when you become absorbed in the school of acting displayed before you.  

If you guessed that Bobby Cannavale is in both Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” you are right. 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner