For Frank Sheeran, killing was just something he did. No different from waking up in the morning. And that’s exactly how Scorsese portrays it. He’s detached from the process, making a movie that takes no sides and has nothing to say about what these people did or who they were. It’s a rendering of Sheeran’s claims as though they were historical non-fiction, like impartial facts. A VoiceOver track would turn The Irishman into a documentary. It offers no thrills, provides little impact, and the script doesn’t offer a lot to chew on.

Pesci’s performance is an all-timer that’s not getting enough credit. DeNiro is great, but the de-aging isn’t particularly convincing. Early in the film, you get the impression he should be around 30, but he looks about 50. And he walks with the gait of an old man, which no CGI can fix. (One fight scene in particular looks… hokey.) It’s distracting to watch a man who looks 50 walk with the gait of an 80-year-old.

And that’s how I feel about the whole film: it’s astonishingly well made, but for every great moment, there’s one that feels like a bunch of old men trying to re-create their youthful glory. Thus far in his career, Scorsese has managed to avoid this problem. Wolf was vital. Even Hugo was charming. But, at times, this is lifeless. Nobody can argue that Scorsese glamorizes gangsters here. But I’m also sure nobody can argue that he as any opinion on them at all.

I’m also of the opinion it could easily have lost 60 minutes of its running time. It doesn’t need to be as long as it is.

There’s a lot of stuff that the film gets right, of course. It’s a brilliant deconstruction of a genre that Scorsese helped invent. It’s also a beautiful swan song for a certain style of filmmaking, particularly as we we watch the film evolve from Kodachrome colour schemes to a more modern neutral palette. From a technical perspective, the film is a monstrous achievement. But from a storytelling perspective, it’s a long investment with few returns.

Overall, The Irishman justifies its existence, but barely. Something happens when Scorsese can’t get attached to his characters. You can see it. He gets cold. He becomes distant. And the film ends up holding you at a distance, never letting you get close enough to feel something.

Three and a half hours of that is enough to age any of us 50 years.

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