Although not inherently a bad picture, Martin Scorsese's The Irishman does contain several major imperfections. Firstly, the de-ageing process on Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci doesn't work. This amounts to the most amateurish and expensive digital cosmetic surgery on record. Millions were spent and the results were hardly convincing. It would have suited the story better to cast younger actors. After all, the weathered posture, beaten down gaze and crusty experience manifested by De Niro in particular betrays the illusion. He's a veteran who can emote until the cows come home. However, the one skill which has abandoned him involves youthful exuberance. Reminds me of what William Holden imparts to Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard: "There's nothing wrong with being fifty, not unless you try to be twenty five."
Adapted from Charles Brandt's book I Heard You Paint Houses, screenwriter Steven Zaillian stretches out 120 minutes into 210 minutes. Granted the only epic thing here would be the length. However, The Irishman appears thin on the ground. People talk, get into assorted nefarious activities and yet very little could be construed as real drama.
De Niro seems cheerfully unmoved in his depiction of Frank Sheeran. He shares the screen once more with Al Pacino. Although they produced some electricity in Michael Mann's Heat and even the diabolical Righteous Kill, Scorsese doesn't give them much meat or steak, only cold cuts long out of date.
Who has this number of hours to waste? Patching the crime movie as art installation, Scorsese carelessly reveals the habits in quick tempered fools. Practically a whole sequence ends up dedicated to the art of being late. Meanwhile, Pacino's turn as Jimmy Hoffa would be a performance if it wasn't so animated and birdlike. I half expected steam to waft from those dragon nostrils. Throughout his section of this inactive motion picture, he exhibits the calmness of a butcher before rolling the meat. Too bad it was only half an assignment.
In the rush to ready The Irishman for Academy Awards consideration, Scorsese and longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker missed a crucial pass or two in the editing bay. Yet their efforts produced something less than an Oscar movie. All told, the pacing reduces audience awareness and engagement by focusing on the insignificant and mundane.
Refined to an absurd degree of raw charm, Joe Pesci happens to be the ace missing from this deck. He makes you forget that Harvey Keitel complied with a mere bit part for director pal Martin Scorsese. Some roles appear so minuscule they are barely conceived let alone written or shaped into a buffalo stampede.
In the final analysis, The Irishman presents us with no blood stirred by mystery into a cocktail of adrenaline. The great serpent has been well and truly defanged.
(Released by Netflix and rated "R" by MPAA.)