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  Irishman, The Death Is His Business And Business Is Good
Year: 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Graham, Kathrine Narducci, Jack Huston, Bobby Cannavale, Steven Van Zandt, Harvey Keitel, Aleksa Palladino, Domenick Lombardozzi, Ray Romano, Dascha Polanco
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is now an elderly man and has to live in a care home as he is not able to look after himself anymore. But as he sits in the communal area, he does love to talk, whether there is anyone listening to him or not. If they did listen, they would hear a remarkable story which detailed the various important events in his life, events that had seen him serve a prison term, though he may have got up to far worse than what he was convicted of. Most importantly, he recalls a day when he was supposed to drive his boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) to a wedding with their respective wives, since Russell did not like to fly. But there were other plans in motion...

The Irishman represented a number of things: first and foremost, a biopic from an unreliable narrator, not an original concept, but one from director Martin Scorsese that featured his return to the gangster genre that had served him so well. If his crime epics left you cold, because almost despite themselves they celebrated some very objectionable people, then this three-and-a-half-hour ramble through Sheeran's confessions was not going to appeal very much, but even in his seventies the filmmaker was vital and keen to tell stories, and this was one he was determined to tell his way, which had led to its very twenty-first century distribution deal that was largely an online one.

Netflix had picked up the budget for Scorsese when Paramount balked at the way it was spiralling ever upwards, and as the director was insistent on not compromising, they told him where to go. The internet company was anxious to sign up big names for its service to prove its quality levels were high and it was not all cheap Christmas TV movies and bingeworthy series that went on for too many episodes, so Scorsese was an important figure in their arsenal – for him, it also meant any potential embarrassment if The Irishman did not find an audience would be soothed by the knowledge that Netflix would keep shtum on the actual numbers of viewers, most of whom would see it on the net.

So the very thing that kept Paramount from funding this, the fear of failure (or more pertinently, a wasted investment), was eliminated for Scorsese, and a limited theatrical release drummed up publicity, with the buzz declaring it a late "masterpiece" for him and his heavyweight, if elderly, cast of stars. Netflix had their prestige, Scorsese had his acclaim, but what did audience have? In truth, it was more like a miniseries, and the placing on the service meant you could watch it in segments as if that was precisely what it was, so it was more suited to essentially a television company with aspirations to art, when not settling for entertainment. The de-ageing on the actors for the early scenes was another talking point, not that it was entirely successful, as they had old faces still, it's just that they were smoother-looking. This mattered less as the film wore on and they began to grow closer to their actual ages, especially when they moved, their physicality not being entirely convincing as younger men.

But for all those misgivings, this was a tale about getting old and the regrets that approach as death comes knocking, as Sheeran's biggest regret wavers between one significant hit he performed for the Mob and the effect it had on the relationship with the silently judging daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin emanating wary, cold disdain with a mere handful of words to speak). You could observe a life of crime provided much to be sorry for, yet the society Sheeran inhabits is steeped in crime, from the lowliest to the highest echelons of power, where the degree of power you have depends on how debased you allow yourself to descend to, be you Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino in ebulliently thorny mood) or the mooks the protagonist mixes with every day. That death comes to them all is not a shock, but it is a great leveller, and the reckoning makes for a sobering experience. Masterpiece? No, it is too withdrawn, even muted, in its tone, too ashamed of its characters' behaviour to truly soar, but it does demand you reflect - on the state of the world and on your place in it, good or evil. Powerful music by Robbie Robertson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. Despite being an advocate of the theatrical experience, he joined forces with Netflix for The Irishman, reuniting him with De Niro for one last gangster epic. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

 
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