Perhaps one of the greatest talents to come out of the Hollywood New Wave of the 1970’s, Martin Scorsese has become one of America’s most recognizable film directors and one cinema’s most devoted champions. With his latest film, The Irishman, Scorsese has proven he’s lost none of that energy which has driven his storied career. Released concurrently by Netflix for streaming and a brief theatrical run, Criterion has made the movie available on home video for the first time.
The Production: 5/5
From a nursing home in late 1990’s Philadelphia, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro) reflects on his life and his association with the mob. It starts when after being acquitted for using his job as a truck driver to sell shipments of meat to a local gangster, he’s formally introduced to Philly mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and is also introduced to his new career of “painting houses” (contract killing) for the Philly mob. In the late 1950’s, his life takes another turn when he’s introduced to the charismatic leader of the Teamsters Union Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), who also befriends Frank and the two share a deep respect for each other. However, as time goes on, events soon conspire to force Frank to choose between his two friends, which will ultimately seal the course for the remainder of his life.
Martin Scorsese has always had a gift for masterful storytelling and The Irishman is definitely no exception. Easily the longest film (in run time) of his career, the movie certainly has a Gone with the Wind feel in terms of cinematic sweep; a panorama of mid 20th Century America plays out on both a grand and intimate scale here. Complementing rather than surpassing the high quality script here is the amazing use of CGI in terms of making the principal actors look younger to match the ages of their real life counterparts; the digital de-aging is so well done that one can easily forget that they’re looking at a illusion of age here. Best of all, the pacing here never feels forced nor plodding, making the 3 plus hours not just move along smoothly but feel all engrossing and immersive. In a career that’s filled with many achievements and accolades, The Irishman may just be one of the top ten movies in Martin Scorsese’s career in which his distinctive style of filmmaking is at his best.
In one of his best performances overall, Robert De Niro is captivating as Frank Sheeran; this is his ninth collaboration with Scorsese and their first film together since Casino (1995). Coming out of an unofficial retirement here, Joe Pesci also gives one of his finest film performances as Northeastern Pennsylvania mobster Russell Bufalino; he would be rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Working with Scorsese for the first time in his career, Al Pacino gives a dynamic performance as Jimmy Hoffa, he too would be rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Rounding out the ensemble cast here are Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino, a longtime associate of Hoffa’s and cousin of Russell, Bobby Cannavale as Philly gangster Skinny Razor, Harvey Keitel as the head of the Philly mob, Angelo “The Gentle Don” Bruno, Anna Paquin as Frank’s daughter Peggy as an adult (Lucy Gallina portrays Peggy as a little girl), Stephen Graham as Teamster chapter president Tony Provenzano, Jack Huston as Bobby Kennedy, Domenick Lombardozzi as Genovese family boss Fat Tony Salerno, Louis Cancelmi as Salvatore “Sally Bugs” Briguglio, and Gary Basaraba as Hoffa’s second in command in the Teamsters, Frank “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, just to name a few.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio for this 4K digital master. Film grain is natural throughout with fine details and color palette given a sharp presentation. There’s no issues like scratches or tears present, which means that this release faithfully represents what is shown on Netflix and likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
The original Dolby Atmos soundtrack is presented for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, with sound effects and music soundtrack both given a faithful representation here. There’s no issues like distortion, crackling or hissing present, meaning that this is also a faithful representation of what you can see and hear on Netflix as well and also likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 5/5
Roundtable discussion with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino & Joe Pesci (18:59) – The four key members of the cast talk about the movie and how they got to work together, some for the first time and some for the first time in a long time.
Making The Irishman (36:10) – This new program looks at the making of the movie through interviews and behind the scenes footage; among those interviewed include Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, author Charles Brandt, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, producers Irwin Winkler, Jane Rosenthal, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and actors Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin and Ray Romano.
Gangsters’ Requiem (21:27) – In this newly filmed video essay, Farran Smith Nehme examines the film and its connection to Scorsese’s signature visual style through his career.
Anatomy of a Scene (5:05) – The Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night scene is analyzed by Scorsese in this brief program from The New York Times in 2020.
The Evolution of Digital De-Aging (12:55) – Carried over from Netflix, this program looks at the revolutionary use of the de-aging technology used in the movies; featuring interviews with Scorsese and visual effects artist Pablo Helman.
Archival excerpted interviews with Frank Sheeran from 1999 (5:48) and Jimmy Hoffa from 1963 (17:21)
Theatrical Trailer (2:24)
Teaser Trailer (2:04)
Booklet feat. an essay by Geoffrey O’Brien
A masterwork from a legendary director, The Irishman is not only one of the best movies from the past decade, but also one of Martin Scorsese’s best overall. Criterion has done the movie full justice here with a sterling HD transfer and immersive special features going into detail on the many nuances of the film. Very highly recommended and worth getting for your collection.
Amazon.com: The Irishman (the Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Martin Scorsese: Movies & TV
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