• Sandeep Chandrasekar

The Irishman Movie Review

The Irishman is an epic crime film directed by Martin Scorsese written by Steven Zaillian. The film was distributed by Netflix so apart from the people who watched it in the New York Film Festival and select screens in the United States it’s available for viewing only on Netflix. This felt slightly weird since a movie of this scale with stars like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci should have been released in the theatres. But it’s still a very good experience watching it at home since most people might not have three and a half hours to spend on a movie continuously. 


It’s also called I Heard You Paint Houses, the meaning of which I will dive into later in the review. The movie from the larger perspective is about a person who works his way up, getting involved in crime families along with a tad of politics. 


With a running time of 3 hours 29 minutes, it’s a very long film. The movie takes a while to get the premise set up but it’s just shown beautifully with a non-linear narration of not only the past and present, but also another timeline which is shown when Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) in the recent past remnisces about how he actually came up the ladders to get in the books of Russell Bufalino ( Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). We get a voiceover narration from a very old Frank Sheeran which is accompanied throughout the movie. This sets the base for the film with the dialogues between the characters amping up the effect of the scenes. It’s a very effective way of writing the film without which would have made it way longer. 


I’m not going to delve into the story of the film because there are just so many plot points which must be taken into consideration. The beauty of the film is that it’s not only a mere crime film but also a movie which carries the emotions of the characters till the very end. For example the relationship between Frank Sheeran and his daughter Peggy is very strained but she’s extremely friendly towards Jimmy Hoffa. This might seem like an unnecessary element in the movie but it’s the force that gives the film that much needed emotional connection in the end. Al Pacino was a pleasure to watch in the film sporting a different look compared to his last outing in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. 


Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa

The movie’s title is aptly justified; Frank Sheeran was of Irish descent, you get the point. But it’s also referred to as I Heard You Paint Houses like the 2004 book written by Charles Brandt. I felt this would have made a more interesting title because you’ll know what it means only when you watch the movie. It essentially is the blood which is splattered on the walls of the house when you shoot someone. This is shown very briefly in the first few scenes of the film, the understanding of which comes later in the film. 


I don’t want to describe this film by just adjectives. There are so many small details that give that extra edge when you watch the movie. For instance, the frame freezes for a second when it displays the quick bio of a person. It gives a brief idea of the person in the scene so there’s no need to introduce the character by way of dialogues or voiceovers. The incredible aspect of the film is that though there are various characters in the film, the story moves forward only because its narrated from the point of view of Frank Sheeran. 


For a movie this long, people might tend to think that the editing is sloppy but it uses silence and the expressions of the actors to capture the scene. The audience will immediately get an idea as to what the director wanted to show in that scene. Some people might complain about the violence and gun culture but the title of the film itself says I Heard You Paint Houses. 


Martin Scorsese

Some scenes are crafted to the utmost perfection. The best example I could think of is this. A person approaches Frank Sheeran with a serious threat to his business. The scene escalates with the intensifying background score. But the score gets cut abruptly and the dialogue also cuts to provide just the thought of Frank Sheeran with no external sounds. This pattern again continues for the next few minutes. It didn’t have much relevance to the story but was still a great example of incredible writing and direction. 


The story and writing is like the concept of refraction. When you put a pencil in a glass of water it appears to be straight in the beginning but slowly bends into a different angle. Similarly while this movie might seem like just a crime film to many, the more you look into the story, you see how many elements are constantly variables.

©2019 by Sandeep Chandrasekar