Martin Scorsese has been at the helm of some of cinema’s biggest cultural revelations. Mean Streets defied conventions to usher in a new movement in American film. The Last Temptation of Christ dared to challenge an entire goddamn religion. The 76-year-old director endured nearly three whole decades of industry complications and resistance to pull off his most recent passion project, Silence. But now, Scorsese attempting his most astonishing feat yet: drawing together not one, not two, but four of cinema’s greatest living legends for one decades-spanning $125 million mob epic, The Irishman. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel will reunite for a film adaptation of Charles Brandt’s 2003 book, I Heard You Paint Houses. The hitman blockbuster, which tracks the Jimmy Hoffa story through the lens of Frank Sheeran, an alleged hitman from the Bufalino crime family, will open the New York Film Festival in September 2019.
What is The Irishman About?
Scorsese’s upcoming film, which happens to be the director’s first collaboration with Al Pacino, is another passion project for the filmmaker. After over 12 years, Scorsese is finally bringing his Jimmy Hoffa story to the screen, with Pacino as the infamous union leader. Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses, investigates Hoffa’s ties to the mafia, centering around De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeran (aka “The Irishman”). Mob nerds regard the Hoffa–and his mysterious death–as one of the most beguiling tales in crime lore history.
The film reportedly spans a massive timeline, with flashbacks going as far back as the ’50s. One reason the film took so long to be made is the complex de-aging technology required to put these older gentlemen into younger versions of the characters. Using computer generated effects, we’ll be seeing the septuagenarians looking up to 30 years younger, reports IndieWire.
Who’s in the cast?
Though Robert De Niro is the main star of the film, he is by no means the biggest name on the production. Pacino is playing Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci is crime boss Russell Bufalino, and the rest of the staggering cast is rounded out by Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemens, Jim Norton, Ray Romano, and Harvey Keitel. Scorsese has always had an interest in giving heavy roles to comedians. Along with Romano, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco is portraying infamous mob legend Crazy Joe Gallo, and Jim Norton will be playing Don Rickles, the wisecracking club comic who actually appeared in Scorsese’s Casino in 1995.
Where can we see the film?
In a big, totally unprecedented move for the cinema giant, Scorsese turned to a streaming service instead of a traditional studio. The director has been a known proponent of the old-school model of cinema for decades now, pushing to keep film in theaters, and even going as far as to preserve classics of the medium with the help of companies like The Criterion Collection. But The Irishman is a Netflix production. After its festival premiere. the film will initially release in select theaters, and then it will drop on the streaming service. To some, this is a “best of both worlds” approach. To others, it represents yet another nail in the coffin of the traditional model of film distribution.
Will it be any good?
The film community was abuzz with displeasure when Martin Scorsese said on the A24 podcast that he was “worried” about the digital de-aging effects in Irishman. Speaking with filmmaker Joanna Hogg, Scorsese said:
“We’re all concerned [because] we’re so used to watching them as the older faces. When we put them all together, it cuts back and forth….Now, it’s real. Now, I’m seeing it. Now, certain shots need more work on the eyes, need more work on why these exactly the same eyes from the plate shot, but the wrinkles and things have changed. Does it change the eyes at all? If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?”
But film critic and longtime Scorsese buddy and director of the New York Film Festival Kent Jones a seems to be less upset by the de-aging CGI. He said:
The Irishman is so many things: rich, funny, troubling, entertaining and, like all great movies, absolutely singular. It’s the work of masters, made with a command of the art of cinema that I’ve seen very rarely in my lifetime, and it plays out at a level of subtlety and human intimacy that truly stunned me. All I can say is that the minute it was over my immediate reaction was that I wanted to watch it all over again.
With the many egos at play, expectations, and risky new technology, it’s not hard to imagine that The Irishman could be a let-down. But if Kent Jones is to be trusted, the film may just be another for the history books. We’ll have to wait until this Fall to see how it all plays out.