Monday, December 2, 2019

The Irishman is all De Niro and Pacino

The best things about Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated The Irishman (now on Netflix) are Robert De Niro facial expressions and Al Pacino’s looks and demeanor. Or rather De Niro’s non-expressions. His character as Frank Sheeran, infamous one-time Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa’s (Pacino)’s bodyguard, is that of having a poker face par excellence. This display is hilarious and I felt like applauding De Niro’s effort, or lack thereof, or in fact his astounding effort to be effortless! As for Pacino’s Hoffa, well, he may not look exactly like the stout Hoffa of old but he certainly doesn’t look like Pacino and he assumes a character that might pass for the bombastic labor boss. In the annals of crime dramas and popular American lore, it probably was only a matter of time until someone got around to making a movie about Hoffa’s disappearance. And here we have it. Clocking in at almost 3 and a half hours, Scorsese, basing the movie on Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses – one of scores of books (and interpretations about the Hoffa case and speculation about how Hoffa died) – the movie is an otherwise biopic taking us from Sheeran’s early days as a hit man in the Philadelphia mob up to the Hoffa disappearance in the summer of 1975. And there are all the usual tropes along the way – clothes and cars and scenes of domestic life including families gathered around laminate kitchen tables - during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Women have beehive hair styles and men ugly polyester leisure suits. It’s all pretty proforma and mildly interesting. But De Niro and Pacino are the real show-stoppers here though Joe Pesci as mobster Russell Bufalino is also a bit of a hoot (just thinking of Pesci makes me smile). So, this is the “Corrupt Union” version of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. I’m not sure the movie warranted its length. I’m less and less a fan of biopics since I know the scenes are artificially created, and I’m picky enough to know that this movie, though largely centered around a Detroit incident, wasn’t filmed here. In fairness, most of the settings worked though a big miss was the location of the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Rd; in the movie there are hills behind it! Another annoyance was Scorsese’s Doo-wop soundtrack. Scorsese has long been Doo-wop obsessed and the score seems out of place among the shirt and tie clean cut criminal crowd. Oh well, The Irishman moves along at a good enough clip and there are enough characters and well done small plots leading to the big one to satisfy most moviegoers. And I do like the story’s conclusion about how Hoffa’s body was disposed of, one I agree with having read about the case. And, no, it wasn’t under the Meadowlands’ stadium end zone.

Finally, after waiting all fall, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story with Adam Driver and Scarlett
Johansson is hitting the big screen locally. The Windsor International Film Festival is the organization showing it, at three times this Thursday, downtown at the Capitol Theatre. Kudos to WIFF and its special association  with Netflix, which also allowed WIFF to host several screenings two weeks ago of The Irishman

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