THE CLOSING SCENE of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman almost made my heart skip a beat. With the camera moving in reverse, it is the summation of a life—the loneliness that engulfs it in the midst of blood, gore and gangster adventure.
An adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman is the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a World War II veteran-turned-truck driver-turned-gangster. We first meet Sheeran as an old man in a nursing home, with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s camera artistically following him around in his wheelchair. Soon, Sheeran goes into flashback mode to his 30s, when he joined the team of crime lord Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) who helps him climb the ladder of the American crime gang, and connects him with the Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
All is going well for Sheeran until his two bosses, who forge close bonds with his family, clash. Sheeran is forced to choose one over the other, but this alienates him from his family, especially daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin). She is the only woman in the film with a few substantial scenes that register.
You cannot help but wonder whether The Irishman is an addition to Scorsese’s magnificent list of crime films (Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed), or a mature reflection on those films which, even though beautifully crafted, advocated criminality in intriguing ways. The Irishman, too, gets deep into the world of crime, describing its different echelons and how the lives of most gangsters end in tragedy. But in the end, the film is more the story of those that do not die a brutal death.
The Irishman will release on Netflix on November 27