Lately, Martin Scorsese has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. He was talking a little bit of shit about Marvel movies, and even though we see where he’s coming from, we’re also going to keep our Marvel movies. But, none of this just distracts from the fact that his new opus, The Irishman, just dropped on Netflix. Yes, it’s 3.5 hours long. Yes, it deploys nearly every mobster-movie cliche’ in the book, and yes, it’s pretty violent. But, it also feels like a great work of art, but not the kind of work of art that is like hard to watch. Watching The Irishman is like reading a Raymond Carver short story you’ve loved for years, or drinking a glass of straight whiskey — on the rocks — on a cold day. It’s pleasant and badass without being cozy.
Much will be written about the impressive way in which the various actors (specifically Robert De Niro) have been de-aged for various time periods with the use of really top-notch CGI technology. And while it is true that this stuff is very cool, it’s also not why the movie is worth watching. True, the special effects do allow us to hop-skip-and-jump through time kind of like a mobster version of Vonnegut’s great novel Slaughterhouse-Five, but it’s mostly the fluidness of the writing and the confidence of the filmmaking that carries you through. I’ve seen a lot of movies with famous actors getting Benjamin Buttoned (including Benjamin Button) and not one of them felt this smart, this nuanced, and this fun to watch.
The Irishman is a serious film, to be sure. But it’s occasionally funny and there is something sweet about it that makes its slightly morbid subject matter feel approachable. This isn’t Casino. It’s more nostalgic and big-hearted than that. In other words, it’s the perfect movie to binge with a cold drink while taking some time off. Watching movies should be entertaining, but sometimes that means we choose to watch things that are mindless in order to escape. With, The Irishman, Martin Scorsese manages to give the masses some mainstream escapist entertainment, without turning our minds into mush.
The Irishman is either a thinking person’s crime movie or a stereotypical mobster drama with excellent dialogue and perfect casting. It’s the most un-guilty guilty pleasure you’ll watch all year, and even though it might be bad for the movie business that it’s on Netflix so quickly, it’s great if you need a break over the Thanksgiving holiday. If you can’t watch it all in one go, that’s okay. But do yourself a favor and watch it. The Irishman will give you feelings, and that’s not a bad thing.
The Irishman is streaming now on Netflix.