The Irishman is like having a 17-course meal in the world's best restaurant
JOE's review of Scorsese's $160 million gangster epic is here.
In a world of binge-watching, when people can sit and watch four, five, six episodes of shows without giving it a second thought, there is still something daunting about a movie with a 209-minute run-time.
Perhaps that has to do with the fact that it is completely out of our hands. If you decide to spend the next half-a-day watching a show, you decide when to pause for a toilet break, when to get up to make a snack, or whatever you want to do, really.
Also, the show you're bingeing on usually has its own natural end points. We've all been asked "Would you like to continue watching?" in what we perceive to be a judgemental tone by our streaming service, and we decide whether we want to, or keep the rest of the series for another day.
That option doesn't really exist in The Irishman when it reaches cinemas, a three-and-a-half hour crime epic that is both very, very good, and massively indulgent. However, if the movie had been released on Netflix as three episodes, each an hour long, it might be judged very differently.
That isn't the world we live in though. Instead, we have this multi-decade spanning story of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a mob hitman who is the right-hand-man of the extremely well-connected Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), who places him as the personal bodyguard to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the legendary union leader.
Against the backdrop of some major historical landmarks, we see Sheeran's involvement in this world of crime and violence slowly strip him of his humanity, distancing him from his family, and pushing him further into some powerful, dangerous allegiances.
Seeing this trio on-screen together is always going to light up a movie-lover's mind, especially in Pacino's case, who hasn't been this good in what feels like decades. However, this isn't a natural progression from Goodfellas or Casino, as Scorsese (and writer Steve Zaillian) are more concerned with the moral cost of causing death, and facing your own mortality when you're surrounded by it every day.
It does feel far more weighty than the "Crime is bad but also sometimes fun" message of Scorsese's previous gangster epics, but almost never feels too weighty. It is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and the push-pull on Sheeran's soul does set up some genuinely tense moments.
The supremely stacked supporting cast, the cinematography, the score, everything about it is up to Marty's usual level, but still... there is that feeling off there being too much of a good thing.
To bring it back to the headline, even though you're about to get the best food in the world, and you know it isn't bad, there is a point when enough is enough and you just want it to be over, and that happens around 40 minutes before The Irishman ends.
Perhaps, on Netflix, when you can pause it and come back to it whenever you want, break it up over one or two nights, or indeed all-in-one-go if you're so inclined, that freedom will make it far more digestible.
As it stands, it feels like something brilliant and monumental, but in dire need of someone who isn't afraid to tell Scorsese when to stop.
The Irishman is released in Irish cinemas on Friday 8 November, and will then be available to watch on Netflix from Wednesday 27 November.
Clip via Netflix