Amid furious online debate over his comments about superhero movies, legendary director Martin Scorsese releases a movie so effortless in its genius that it should grant him carte blanche to say anything he wants about cinema. The Irishman is proof positive that few do it better.
From a rest home, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) looks back on his life as a Teamster truck driver, small-time enforcer, big-time hitman, aide to legendary Teamster's boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and confidante to Pennsylvania mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci).
Scorsese spends considerable time stylishly portraying the criminal process in a manner that evokes Goodfellas and Casino, which gives The Irishman an instant popcorn appeal. But this is a much more contemplative film than those two key precedents, and as it stretches on, so expands the yawning chasm of doubt and emptiness at its core.
Scorsese may be taking his time, but the languidness is very much earned, and a joy to luxuriate in. It's also a surprisingly funny movie, with more than one standout comedic set piece.
The much-ballyhooed digital de-aging isn't very convincing - I never felt like I was seeing De Niro as anything but his current age. But that aligns with the reflective nature of the film - it doesn't break the narrative to perceive an aged Sheeran inhabiting his younger self.
Pacino is admirably restrained (for him) as Hoffa, and it's a genuine treat to see Pesci in a movie after such a long time. He may have occasionally reminded me of Baby Yoda, but Pesci's authoritative command of the screen remains undiminished.
Anna Paquin makes an impact with only one (devastating) line throughout a series of otherwise silent appearances as Sheeran's daughter Peggy, a character who says a lot without speaking.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running time: 209 minutes
Rating: R13 (Violence, cruelty & offensive language)
Verdict: Cinema's greatest living master shows us how it's done.