I liked this much more after a second viewing. Scorsese’s age is clearly giving him a new perspective, a new lens to capture with. 

Ostensibly, The Irishman is about the (probable) murder of Jimmy Hoffa (allegedly) by Frank Sheeran. It’s about unions, the assassination of JFK, power, greed, and violence. 

In other words, it’s about America. 

With all the de-aging tech going on, it’s easy to think — as I thought when I first saw this — that it’s an attempt by a bunch of old men to relive their glory days. In reality, I think it’s really about the end of Frank Sheeran’s life: the result of power, greed, and violence is emptiness and death (Scorsese’s Catholicism rears it heads again). 

In that sense, if the film is about America, Scorsese points to a future version of America that has nothing left. Power and greed and violence have hollowed it out until it’s unrecognizable. 

Scorsese has always filmed violence and greed in America. In his old age, he’s noticed something potent about the way those stories end. 

I say all that to say I really want to edit something like an hour out of this. But I don’t know what to take out. You can’t tell the story Scorsese tells with a short runtime. Every minute of Joe Pesci needs to stay, too. It’s too long, but it’s hard to imagine a shorter film sticking the landing. 

The de-aging tech looks bad, but mostly because I think the film never gives us a real accurate view of anybody’s age (and also because Netflix’s compression is very aggressive). De Niro never looks a day under 40, and that’s being generous. But maybe he’s not supposed to. I really don’t know. The film never says. 

The first time I saw this, I thought the film was lifeless and that Scorsese had nothing to say about his characters. I think I was nuts to write that. Scorsese has a lot to say, but he starts with a simple observation: these men have nothing there, but empty souls and smiles to match. The only nice thing to say about them is that one day they’ll all be forgotten.

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