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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

The Irishman: A Long Look Back at the Mob

The Irishman centers on the life of Frank Scheeran (Robert DeNiro). Scheeran, a returning war veteran, starts as a small time crook and graduates to being an integral part of a large East-Coast network of gangsters. The renowned director, Martin Scorsese, follows Scheeran’s life with an entrancing backdrop of such magnificent detail that every scene looks authentic down to the appearance of every store exterior, bar interior and costume. There are no inaccuracies.

The characters seem authentic but repulsive. They are a sleazy bunch of highly organized criminals. They have an unspoken pack to honor each other by reputation. Once your standing is lost, you’re in danger. The mobsters are not unlike other groups of working people. They have jobs to do and business deals to make. They join each other in celebrations but generally keep a low profile. They accept the risks of the job, such as jail or execution. Usually each outfit gets along with the others but disloyalty demands retribution.

Scorsese is a brilliant director. If you ask him what he does, he simple says, " make movies". But, oh what movies he makes. His films can be tense and confrontational like Good Fellas, or delightful and fun like Hugo. He seems to be driven to look at the criminal underside of society. Why his explorations of the underside have continued over his entire career, no one seems to know; not even him.

The Irishman is profound. Many of Scorsese actors are Italian Americans from the New York area. He congeals his actors into a mob. Scorsese uses a stable of players that go back years and include Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. For The Irishmen he casts Al Pacino who fits right into the group. Bobby Cannavale, an outstanding Italian-American actor, also joins the group.

In order to create the epic nature of The Irishman Scorsese keeps the same actors throughout by using, computer generated effects that make the actors appear older or younger as needed for the scene. Overall, these effects work very well, but sometimes are confusing in the movie’s broken narrative style. For some scenes, age-transformations are puzzling. Confusion results over what epoch is being portrayed.

If you lived during the days of these gangsters (approximately 1952 through 1982) most people only knew them from newspaper and TV accounts. But if you lived in a city with gangsters, you didn’t need to watch TV to know who was who. Word got around and unfortunately neighborhood children became attracted to gangster lifestyles.

During the post-WWII period it was well known that the mob was in many businesses. In certain cities, they controlled entire lines of business, especially in hotel and restaurant supply including linens, laundering, dishes, tableware, food supplies, and kitchen equipment.

Do not take anyone under 18 to this movie. It’s not only the violence but also the attraction of the mob’s moneyed way of life. Naive children might think this way of life is welcoming especially since the mob acts like a family.

Scorsese fans will love this movie. The rest of us who appreciate his work will enjoy it but movie goers who do not want to spend 3½ hours with these criminals may baulk. Men are more likely to be captivated by gangsters who act on their anger but morbid curiosity is something we all have.


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