Tuesday, February 11, 2020

THE IRISHMAN -- my review

A writer friend summed up THE IRISHMAN perfectly. He said you could take an hour-fifteen out of this movie – ANY hour-fifteen.

THE IRISHMAN is a meticulously crafted, well-acted, beautifully directed incredibly indulgent film about horrible people, not only doing horrible things, but horrible things we’ve seen already fifteen times in Martin Scorsese’s other movies. I know I frequently complain that movies are too long. This one is 3:39.

Not enough happens. De Niro and Pacino both do a medley of their greatest hits. CGI is employed to make them look young and at times De Niro appears almost Asian.

There are scenes of people taking a smoke break. Several of them.


That's why it didn't win any Oscars.  

What could possibly have been left out on the cutting room floor? If smoke break scenes made the cut, what (if anything) did Scorsese leave out?

Along the way there were some excellent scenes and moments but not a compelling enough story to warrant the time it takes to fly from LA to Detroit. Joe Pesci and Ray Romano were standouts.  And the guy playing singer Jerry Vale. 

And then there’s my own, I acknowledge, personal issue with the film. Every main character in THE IRISHMAN is despicable. Tony Soprano without the therapy. And the only reason we give a scintilla of a shit about them is because wonderful actors are playing them.

So what happens in fifty years? Might there be a movie about Trump and his treasonous inner circle of gangsters? Will audiences have sympathy for Donald Trump and Stephen Miller and Rudy Giuliani if our national treasure actors-of-the-day portray them? Will future movie-goers (and who knows where they go in 2070?) be fooled into finding these monsters “fascinating?” The real people are fooling millions, imagine what good actors can do.  So for that reason I had a harder time caring for one second about any of the thugs in THE IRISHMAN. 

If, out of curiosity, you do want to watch THE IRISHMAN (it’s on Netflix, it’s free and available any time), my suggestion is to do it in two parts. Start in the late afternoon. Break around 6 for dinner, and return for the last two hours. And bring your laptop. I guarantee you’re going to be checking email and Instagram -- at least 339 times.


Ted said...

Some people have done research on all Natalie Portman's movies and she is being labelled a hypocrite.


She has never hired any women director for her company except herself.

So much for her activism.....

blinky said...

As a video editor I always fantasize that I could cut down movies like this but I'm too lazy to actually take the time.
There must be a site where some editor does. Imagine if there was a site that took the fluff out of movies so you could see just the good stuff.

E Street Band said...

The guy playing Jerry Vale was Steven Van Zandt! As a fellow Bruce Springsteen fan, I'm surprised you didn't recognize him.

Brian said...

indulgent - that's the keyword.

This movie basically was funded by Netflix to showcase that they can attract big names. So all the money spent was basically for acceptability at Hollywood's high table.

Scorsese and others couldn't have got this much funding from anyone else for this particular story.

Would these millionaires have funded it themselves to make this movie? No. They knew they wouldn't get back the money.

So make it long. Long movies = masterpiece. Something to talk on and on and on at these 'round table discussion' at various festivals, media YouTube channels' discussion. There are so many of them. It was boring as hell after a certain point.

It was so blatant and painful to see them showboating about this great masterpiece, when in fact people were just indulging them for their great past.

No one told them that this movie sucked, to their face.

Coming to the awards part:

1. As soon as people heard of these great men coming together, automatically one slot was filled up even before they saw the movie. That means sadly some other deserving movie lost out.

2. They didn't deserve most of the 10 nominations. So, someone else lost out in each category.

3. Did anyone notice that many Scorsese movies get a lot of nominations but hardly win anything. It's just his name that fetches them.

This movie 0/10
Gangs... 0/10
Wolf.... 0/5

Genn said...

My big issue is there's nothing we haven't seen before. It's Casino, Goodfellas, Mean Streets and the Godfather all mashed up in a blender.

And the scene when DeNro is beating the guy and kicking him when he's on the ground is laughable. It's old man DeNiro digitally looking younger, but still moving as frail and slow as your grandfather.

CarolMR said...

Ken, get help.

Peter said...

Scorsese movies are all with big actors and he never wrote any story / screenplay that makes him a genius creator. Few he did write, nothing great.

Same goes to Spielberg - no screenplay / story, just a special effects gimmicks guy. Lot of grandeur smokescreen .....

He wrote some ghost movie, directed by someone else - utter flop.

Honest Ed said...

I have to say, I do think that's a wee bit harsh.

I was one of the lucky ones who saw it in a cinema and which you knew you were in for the long haul, it certainly didn't feel anywhere near as long as it actually was. I've looked at my watch more often in many 90 minute movies than I did watching The Irishman. I think it works really well on the big screen but can certainly accept it's a big ask on the small screen.

Joe said...

I had hard time accepting Ray in a serious character. I expected Debra anytime to come out and hit him over the head with a frying pan 😂

Ted said...

Al Pacino was good.

Joe Pesci was all wrinkled up and hunched - like on the verge of dying. Not the Joe Pesci you love. The voice was inaudible too.

Robert De Niro just smirked the whole time. Nothing else. I was waiting for some scene where he would light up the screen with his acting. Nothing......
He had more scope in Dirty Grandpa.

Anna Paquin had no scope for any great acting. Hardly did anything other than keep giving vacant looks.

Todd from BB came in, threw few punches, tried to look tough and then went home to Kirsten Dunst. He is just riding the coattails of BB.

Ray Romano sounded more like Kermit the frog - both voiced by one of your guest on podcast John Goodman.

And finally Marty. I watched thinking that this is Marty's farewell movie.

But no it's not. There is one more with Leo and Bobby.

That's it!!! Marty is just abusing the last time love we fans are showering upon him by dishing such crap.

Stephen Marks said...

Just for fun:

Titanic - 3h 15m

Dances With Wolves - 3h 01m

The Godfather - 2h 58m

The Godfather 2 - 3h 22m

Casino - 2h 58m

Citizen Kane - 1h 59m

Pulp Fiction - 2h 58m

Braveheart - 3h 2m

Sound of Music - 2h 55m

Gone With The Wind - 3h 58m

The play Hamilton - 2h 45m

Ken's play Digging Up Dad - 10m

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

One small correction:

It's 3:29.

And I'm going to disagree for the most part. I didn't even feel the length of the film. To me, it felt very much like a summation of Frank's life as a whole. I think a shorter runtime would have diminished that impact.

Ted said...

Sorry.... David Goodman.

Rays profile said...

I wouldn't call Schindler's List a special effects gimmick movie.

Sean said...

Sounds like Scorsese's making parodies of his own earlier work now--inadvertently. Still it's filling a spot. There haven't been enough sendups of the 90s and 00s Gangster genre.

Maybe writers are afraid of getting "wacked" if they do it in earnest.


Michael Hagerty said...

I thought Pacino and Romano were remarkable.

DeNiro's a great actor, but I've seen him do this same guy in CASINO, GOODFELLAS and, for that matter, MEET THE FOCKERS.

Anonymous said...

It was too long but I paused it over night. I like Ray Romano. DeNiro was playing Sheeran, whose eyes slant downward. It was GoodFellas (which I liked) 2.0. Same Marty script, same narration, same actors. The violence is getting a little old for me. I thought it was a little sloppy maybe due to Marty's age? I am glad I got to sit in my house and watch it. I think we are seeing the end of an era since the youngest of that group is 76. Janice B.

Matt said...

The major plot kind to the movie gets resolved and the movie still goes on for another hour. As if I cared what happened to any of the characters in their old age.

Buttermilk Sky said...

And Stephen Marks might have added GREED (1919) 8 hours +

Ever since the studio cut most of Stroheim's epic, critics and movie buffs have equated length with "masterpiece." Abel Gance's NAPOLEON is such a film, but have you ever tried to sit through it?

I saw THE IRISHMAN on Netflix, with appropriate breaks, and I agree, too long. The testimonial dinner could have been cut to ten minutes. There seemed to be a lot of driving in the suburbs of Detroit. Bobby Cannavale was on the screen for less than a minute, despite featured billing. Same with Harvey Keitel. Did we really need to see Frank pick out his casket?

Years ago, Scorsese had an option on LOVE IN VAIN, a biopic about the blues singer Robert Johnson. I don't suppose it will get made now, and it's probably just as well. Johnson's life was shorter than THE IRISHMAN.

Steve Bailey said...

I saw the movie, and I wouldn't agree that just *any* hour-and-15-minutes could be cut out, but it's definitely an hour too long. For me, it was compelling until the final hour, where entire scenes could have been done as throwaway shots.

Could it be because our most revered directors now don't know when to stop and have nobody to tell them? MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was Woody Allen's biggest ever box-office hit, but the elongated Paris travelogue at the start of the movie was enough to put me off. Yes, we get it, it's set in Paris. Get to the story, already!

stephen catron said...

I think Scorsese was, still is, trying to make a film as good as The Godfather. But he can't, it's not his skill set and he never will.

Lisa said...

Long movies can be interesting, we don't notice it.

But some like this one was boring. That's the whole point of Ken pointing out about editing.

They must have thought since people are watching this on their computers at home, it doesn't matter how long we make it, they wont feel a thing. They were wrong.

I blame the script. Instead of the entire life, they could taken some interesting episode and made the movie. Or since they got all these big shots working together, then why not write a separate interesting story than rely on someone else's life which narrows down any dramatization.

thomas tucker said...

It's all been done before. Nothing new to explore in these waters, at least not by Scorsese, and probably not even by anyone else since The Sopranos took what was left after all the other mob films.

Anthony Adams said...

I confess I haven't seen it. just don't care about the material. I know Scorsese says he's making movies about the Italian-American experience. but I'm pretty sure not every Italian-American is in the mafia. the book didn't interest me either. this is the story of a gangster. this gangster may have met more interesting people than most, but still the book of an immoral / amoral person who I would cross the street to avoid, leading a life that I don't think anyone would want to recommend. at least Tarantino films bring laughter with them.

Jonny M. said...

Ken - Obviously its your blog, but I don't understand how you're moderating the comments these days. What's up with all the vitriol, particularly towards women? There's a comment today about Natalie Portman that's a carry over from yesterday's commenting hatefest.

I know you moderate the Trumpers, why provide these trolls a platform? The comment section is becoming a place to avoid as opposed to a place where you find interesting and often humorous feedback.

D McEwan said...

Scorsese, DeNiro and DeCaprio announcing they're making another movie together is about as surprising as Oliver Hardy in 1935 announcing his next movie would co-star Stan Laurel.

My great-great-great grandparents were born in Ireland in 1801, and I'm still not Irish enough to sit through 4 hours of The Irishman.

Anonymous said...

Consider the possibility that Scorsese knew that it would be seen primarily on Netflix and that's why it was so long.
People would watch it as a short miniseries in hourlong intervals as Ken suggested.

Sean Savage said...

Honest Ed gets it. If you saw it in a theater (and I went back to do it again) you'd see that it's precisely the right length for the story it tells. After Casino and a few other turkeys, I never thought I'd love another Scorsese movie at this point (and King Of Comedy is tops in my book) but this one is way up there.

. said...

If your father was the real-life target of a 1967 preliminary-warning type of 'hit' by the Jesse Plemons character, as ordered by Jimmy H as a message to a guy otherwise widely respected (for "hiring" your Little League teammates to distribute Kmart and Monkey Wards circulars door-to-door during a newspaper strike), you might not terribly mind the movie's length.

It all brought back such pleasant memories including why we picked the Machus Red Fox restaurant for my wedding rehearsal dinner.

Still, it took me 6 sessions to watch the whole darn thing.

A main dilemma was the inability to suspend reality. The underlying premise of the Irishman being a major factor in the Hoffa slaying has been thoroughly debunked. Complete BS. Giving the Irishman a green cape and the ability to fly would have been more believable. Plus, if Scorsese had done that our kids might actually have watched part of the movie.

Amy KB said...

My favorite Scorsese movie is After Hours, the movie he made after initial funding for the Last Temptation of Christ fell through. It’s suspenseful, funny as hell and 97 minutes long.

Ken said...

I liked it. Yes its too long and is not as good as Goodfellas (I still say "Dances With Wolves" winning Best Picture over "Goodfellas" is the worst Oscar call I've ever heard).
All that said and I still found it interesting. I thought Al Pacino, Ray Romano and Joe Pesci were great in it. I thought DeNiro might have been hurt by too many scenes with the de-aging software. I don't think it worked and found it distracting when people kept referring to him as "Kid".

By Ken Levine said...

I'm letting the Natalie Portman thread go because there are also people defending her.

And you should see the shit I do delete. I do take solace though in the fact it takes them five minutes to compose and submit and me literally one second to delete.

Phil said...

This year's was the lowest ratings


John in NW Ohio said...

I was ready to hate The Irishman because of all the complaints I had heard beforehand about the overall length, but I enjoyed the movie a great deal. Yeah, it was definitely too long, but I knew that going in, and I guess I was ready because it didn't bother me a great deal.

One of Pacino's early scenes seemed like unnecessary overacting, though. Not to Ernest Borgnine or Desi Arnaz levels, but it was a bit surprising and distracting.

I thought it was a good flick and it was cool that they got the band back together for this project. Definitely too long, though.

Travis Bickle said...

stephen catron

I don't want to bash Coppola, who's a legend, but the idea that Scorsese is somehow inferior to him is laughable. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or Goodfellas are each easily the equal of The Godfather.

The last truly great film by Coppola was Dracula in 1992. That's almost 30 years ago.

In that same period, Scorsese has made The Age of Innocence, Casino, The Aviator, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence and The Irishman. And I haven't even included his slightly lesser but still great films like Hugo and Shutter Island. That is a phenomenal body of work just since 1993. Add the ones before that and you have a filmmaker who's almost supernaturally gifted.

Robert Brauer said...

I would say the criticism of the main characters all being detestable is maybe unwarranted; that describes Goodfellas too, after all, and that film was a masterpiece.

I agree with others that the length of the film was an inhibiting factor to my enjoyment of it; it didn't feel like 3 1/2 hours. Still, it probably could have stood to have quite a bit of fat trimmed.

Unknown said...

One things that is wrong in the movie, is Kennedy getting the votes in Chicago because of mob influence. This has been debunked multiple times by multiple credible people.
But it does make the story a little more interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I thought it was just me that didn't like this movie.

Laura said...

I don't see the Oscars. I just read your review here Ken.

The next day I see a small related entertainment.

It's Kimmel's sidekick interviewing the celebrities. Anyone who needs a 5 min break from your routine can just have a look at this fun interview. He has been doing it for a few years now, with Charlize Theron being the the only regular, she is a good sport.

Enjoy :)


P.S. : Ignore Julia the sourpuss.

Jeff said...

The whole project is mystifying to me in so many ways. The first question is, why would you make a movie about a story that has pretty much been definitively debunked? What was the urgency to tell this story? Why didn't someone tell DeNiro he missed his chance to make this movie 25 years ago? He and the others are simply too old and the de-aging software was embarrassing to say the least (also, check out the youtube video where someone used free de-aging software and it actually looks better!)

YEKIMI said...

I am at the age that I probably won't go see a movie that's over 2 hours long unless they install a urinal under the seat so I can go without missing a damn thing.

Tony.T said...

I started The Irishman about a month ago, but still haven't reach the end.

John in NE Ohio said...

He should have added 3 hours and made it an 8 part series for Netflix.

I think directors that get full control are often a problem. Woody was better when the studio or producer told him no. Mel Brooks certainly was. Some people need reigned in.

Anonymous said...


Tony.T said...

Green Book, although still subject to recency, and which I saw last week, would challenge DWW for a Best Picture howler.

kcross said...

Ken, I agree with you that things are usually better when they are shorter. (I liked your story of you and Annie editing Neil Simon). In your opinion, which movies, TV shows, music are *too* short?

MikeN said...

If the movie had been called Not The Meadowlands, or I Paint Houses then it's too long. However, since it's called the Irishman, I'm expecting a life story, and am OK with it being a long movie and wouldn't mind if it had another hour.

What I don't get is how while watching the movie you then have to vote it down because it makes you think of Trump. Not the characters, but that future generations would have the same reaction to a similar movie about Trump - a movie which doesn't exist starring actors not yet known.

Lorimartian said...

Amy...yes! -- "After Hours," and another for me is "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore."

Unknown said...

Have you ever seen a Scorsese film before? Most of the characters are despicable! And considering Deniro's track record the last twenty years, this movie is a refreshing breath from the stinkers he has appeared in. Furthermore, as we all know, as you get older, your options are limited. It's nice to still be wanted.

Cap'n Bob said...

Scorsese hasn't made a good movie in--what?--20 years. And I don't watch Di Niro anymore, so this is another movie I can cross off my list. If I had a list.

Max Clarke said...

Maybe Scorsese will issue a Director's Cut someday and it will be 2 hours.

Bop said...

Very well said. I concur.

Unknown said...

I have no idea who Ken Levine is,but was as disappointed in The Irishmen why did he stay for the movie?

BluePedal said...

Netflix and smoking. What's new? The tobacco companies found themselves a nice little platform to continue their promotion of their despicable product. Need help financially on your TV or movie project? I'm sure big tobacco would be glad to help as long as you...

Amy KB said...

I wouldn't say that choosing, "Dancing with Wolves," over "Goodfellas" is the most egregious mistake made by the Academy but then again they fail so many damn times that I don't know how the ceremony was ever taken seriously. I am glad the best picture winner was a deserving surprise but next year it will be either one that was assumed to be the winner because of all the previous awards shows and/or a mediocre "safe" movie.

Plus since the beginning of the awards the academy has this lovely habit of "making it up to the the actor/director/writer who lost the previous year when they clearly deserved to win and giving them an Oscar for an inferior film the next. They did with Jimmy Stewart in 1939.

And those "Honorary Oscars" are such an insult. A lot of artists knew it wasn't a real honor. Peter O'Toole only accepted it when the academy said that he might still win a competitive Oscar since Christopher PLummer had received an Oscar at age 82.

O'Toole never got a real Oscar.

Unknown said...

I thought it was a great movie. The Joe Gallo hit was a stretch. They were right. The Teamsters made Las Vegas. Or i mean their loans ..lol

Jonny M. said...

Ken - Thanks for responding about how you moderate. I've been reading you for over ten years and today's Irishman debate in the comments epitomizes what's fun about this blog. Love hearing everyone's opinion and its refreshing to see people debate a topic without acting like jerks.

Roger Owen Green said...

I saw it in the cinema. It was better, I think, than seeing it on Netflix. Still, too long.

Sean said...

@Travis Bickle

"The last truly great film by Coppola was Dracula..."

Sorry, but I'm going to have to give you some pushback on that one. I certainly don't think Coppola's Dracula was a great film. Even overlooking Keanu Reeves performance, it was middle of the road fare in the early 90s. To be fair I haven't gone back and looked at it again (see Keanu Reeves mention above) so it could be one of those rare gems that seem worse on first viewing. But I doubt that really.

Also, I don't want to bash Keanu. His acting has gotten better and he seems to be a really nice guy. He's done an excellent job of moving forward.


Anonymous said...

@ Unknown:
Kennedy didn't need the Mob to get votes in Chicago

Barry Traylor said...

3:39 Good Grief!! Thanks for the warning Ken.

TimWarp said...

Blogger Anthony Adams said...
I know Scorsese says he's making movies about the Italian-American experience. but I'm pretty sure not every Italian-American is in the mafia

When actress Julie Halston was a kid, her schoolmates teased her about her father being in the Mafia because he was Italian. She went home and asked her mother "Is Daddy in the Mafia?" and her mother's response was "If your father was in the Mafia, would we be living in this sh*thole?" (Of course she tells it much better than I do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnUWtyhG_Go )

blogward said...

I thought The Irishman held up kind of atmospherically; you might drop off, then wake up and not know for a second whether you were watching Godfather 1, 2, or 3, Goodfellas or what. The sort of movie to put on at Xmas so nobody has to bother changing channel. Good for broadcasters too - that's over an eighth of the daily schedule covered.

What I would criticise it for is whoever did Pacino's hair. Unless of course it's digitally enhanced, in which case they must have done it on a Game Boy or something.

Dan Riley said...

The pathetic sniping at Scorsese in these comments is unwarranted, he deserves more respect than the spit balls thrown at him here. Pesci and Pacino were at the top of their game, while DeNiro in his elevator boots and frozen expressions was more akin to an SNL parody.