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Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman": De Niro, Pacino and Pesci shine in this intimate gangster epic

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30.09.2019

The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s 209-minute gangster epic, is very, very good. It's also no “Goodfellas.” That is not a criticism; it is not trying to be that kind of mob movie. This adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book “I Hear You Paint Houses” is far more elegiac than bloody.

This is a slow burn film, with flashbacks within flashbacks recounted by Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who is living out the tail-end of his life in a retirement home. Sheeran is a “house painter,” which is mafia slang for killer — as in, the blood he spatters in a shooting “paints” a house red. Frank gets into the business after meeting Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), a mob boss who hires him. Their relationship is cemented in part when Frank agrees to do a side job for a mobster named Whispers that leads back to Russ and his first hit. Scorsese leisurely films this sequence of Frank slowly casing the laundry service Whispers wants Frank to destroy, and it is a thing of beauty. The low-key approach to the crime culminates in a snap of violence; the focus here is more about respect and loyalty than action.

Whenever Frank and Russ talk, their words are freighted with (not so) hidden meanings. They never quite say what they are actually saying, but they both understand each other. The affinity between them is one of the strengths of this intimate film. And “The Irishman” is intimate. Yes, it can be enjoyed in a theater, but it will also play well on Netflix.

Scorsese certainly has style to burn here. His opening tracking shot is masterful — slowly moving into a close-up of Frank,........

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