Director: Martin Scorsese
Am I the first to have found the necessary 3 plus hours to devour this prime piece of gorgonzola? Scorsese rounding up his dream team of de Niro, Pacino and Pesci, along with Harvey Keitel and numerous other ‘was that so and so’ cameos. Of course, as much the hype has been the cost of the computer electrickery to de-age the cast into an approximation of how they may have looked in their prime, which requires remembering the prime of mobsters tends to be a burly high waisted trouser middle age. Tackling that first, I thought it OK, the images sometimes akin to the fake colouring of a B&W film. It didn’t bother me but Mrs Path found their eyebrows annoying. In truth, and it is no dealbreaker to say the film follows de Niro, ‘the’ Irishman, from these high waists to bathchair aged reflection, the make-up to age him was less successful.
The clamour and clatter of the press suggests this is a work of genius. Well, that depends. If you like this sort of thing, sure, it is a fabulous ride and seldom falters. If these guys and gangsters are your bag, you’ll love it. I do and I did. The tone of the period, 1950s into 1970s is well gauged, the unobtrusive soundtrack redolent of sleazy supper clubs and crinoline cabarets. And the story, yes, the story is much as you expect, whether you know the background or not, the nature of the mob is predictable and formulaic, that being half the joy. Of course you know what’s coming next, it is working out when it’s coming that is the pleasure. If nothing else, it has made me want to seek out the real backstory, maybe by catching the Jack Nicholson Hoffa film. (I am sure there are proper documentaries too, but I can’t help but feel they would be less fun, if, no doubt, rightly galling in their portrayal of not very nice men doing not very nice things….)
It’s the acting triad that has garnered most attention, and it is astonishing that Pacino and de Niro have only appeared together the once, in the estimable ‘Heat’, as they seem eternally associated in the filing cabinet of my mind. De Niro is de facto the main character and he is on top form, all his old mannerisms back after years on autopilot, downturned mouth grimaces and bare flickers of an eye to demonstrate every millisecond switch of emotion, from pathos to pathology. Pacino is, well, Pacino is just his usual Al, perhaps turned up to 12 rather than his usual 11, maybe still more as his character becomes increasingly manic. Pesci is the delight, dragged out of retirement after years of cajoling from old buddy Bob. This is no reprise of his Goodfella’s persona, a shame you might say, but this is way more nuanced a role, the calculating fixer who seems to be moving all the parts, whether they know it or not. But, even with the de-aging, heck, how old he has got, certainly compared to the rest of the gang, this adding to the gravitas. His absence from the screen over the last couple of decades strangely adds to the depth and delight of his character, his co-stars never off a screen somewhere in the intervening. Which, in a way, is the rub, as, however good this film is, however the plaudits pile, it is really just more of the same, if writ large. Large and long, possibly a swansong for this era of Hollywood. Sure, Scorsese will make more films, hopefully, and the actors, maybe not Pesci, will probably be in more films, but this feels a last hurrah for this team in this timbre. Maybe it is fitting that it is on telly, on Netflix, a reminder of how big movies used to be made when we went to the cinema, as we realise we never need to again.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Anything by Scorsese, de Niro when he was good and Pacino when he is crazy, Heat, Goodfellas, My Cousin Vinnie. I suspect having a penis helps: eyebrows apart, Mrs Path found it annoying boysie nonsense, chock full of cliches, missing the point that that is the point.