The Irishman (2019)
Everyone deserves a swan song, including Hollywood's most celebrated Italian-Americans, but this self-indulgent, grossly overlong film is one of the saddest and most irrelevant swan songs in Hollywood history. The Irishman is riddled with fundamental and particular shortcomings, most of which should definitely have been avoided by a director as seasoned and capable as Martin Scorsese.
The most pressing and conspicuous problem is the miscasting of the two lead characters. Robert De Niro is out of shape, out of place and clearly lacks belief in what he's doing. Bear in mind that he's playing a hitman. He's also too old to play Frank Sheeran, something the producers thought digital de-aging would make up for. Unfortunately, they couldn't de-age De Niro's body, which is still that of a 75-year-old. And the de-aging itself is very uneven, to put it mildly. When Joe Pesci utters "You're my kid!" to Robert De Niro, any doubts about miscasting is washed away.
De Niro's counterpart is Al Pacino, who incidentally works with Scorsese for the first time here. He's in better shape and goes at it, but it soon becomes clear that Mr. Pacino has no interest in trying to actually play Jimmy Hoffa. His mannerisms, diction and temperament is not that of Hoffa, it's that of post-2000 Al Pacino. The only thing that really works in The Irishman is Joe Pesci. He's both well-cast and demonstrates that he still can act. Pesci has his pride for his craft intact. In a better movie, his Russell Bufalino could have been a career stand-out. The other characters are mostly irrelevant and underused, which is remarkable given the running time, and sad given the fact that we have fine actors such as Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel and Jesse Plemons in the cast.
Still, the people in front of the camera are far from the only problems with The Irishman. Another is Scorsese's pretentiousness on behalf of the story itself. There may be a two-hour movie in this script at best, but Scorsese lets his scenes drag out and his characters ramble on like idiots. There's no narrative drive. The only thing that interrupts the numerous agonizing scenes of arrogant characters who love the sound of their own voices is the De Niro character's voice-over narration. I find it remarkable that in a 200-minute movie, the director still isn't able to tell his story using filmatic methods, but has to resort to that lazy narrator.
So to sum up how the film works for at least 100 minutes of its running time: The De Niro character tells us stories from his past, consisting of killings of killers by other killers, interspersed with long, lingering scenes of guys rambling and telling De Niro's character what to tell the next guys he talks with in the next long, lingering scene. Sounds fun? Be my guest.
As an artist it takes effort to remain relevant and on top of your game for 50 years. Very few have managed to do that, no matter which art form. I hope Martin Scorsese is playing a trick on us here. That he hasn't actually lost his touch to such a degree that he thinks this is good movie-making. Because it's quite disrespectful to be so wasteful with other people's time. After the film's so-called climax, it drags on for another half an hour, for good measure. It's about as anti-climactic as a guy who falls asleep during sex.