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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Martin Scorsese
Cast:
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Writing Credits:
Steve Zaillian

Synopsis:
In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran gets involved with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby Atmos
English Descriptive Audio
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 209 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 11/24/2020

Bonus:
• “Making The Irishman” Documentary
• Roundtable Conversation
• “Gangsters’ Requiem” Video Essay
• “Anatomy of a Scene” Featurette
• “The Evolution of Digital De-Aging” Featurette
• Archival Interviews
• Trailers
• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Irishman: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 9, 2020)

Across his career, Martin Scorsese made films that touched on a variety of genres, but he remains most associated with crime/gangster tales. For the first time since 2006’s Oscar-winning The Departed, Scorsese returns to that domain with 2019’s The Irishman.

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (De Niro) meets crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) during a random encounter. They soon cross paths again, and Russell brings Frank into the organization, where he becomes a top hit man.

Eventually Frank’s position in the Bufalino organization leads him to meet and work for Teamster head Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Eventually Frank finds himself with conflicted loyalties between Russell and Jimmy.

Given that Irishman runs three and a half hours and spans many decades, that synopsis necessarily simplifies matters. While the Frank/Russell/Jimmy triad forms the film’s core, it goes through a slew of other events as well.

That becomes the biggest problem here, as it means Irishman lacks focus. Rather than turn into a strong character piece, the movie tends to meander.

As occurred with 1995’s Casino, it becomes difficult to avoid comparisons to 1990’s GoodFellas. The latter remains Scorsese’s definitive effort in the genre, and Irishman begs these views because it touches on similar subject matter with similar scope – and similar personnel.

The De Niro/Pesci/Scorsese connection becomes the most glaring, of course, though Irishman reflects GoodFellas in other overt ways as well. Heck, Irishman even reuses some GoodFellas locations!

Other than running time, the biggest difference between the two comes from style and tone. Whereas GoodFellas became an energetic, nearly giddy romp through the world of crime, Irishman shows the perspective of age, with an emphasis on sadness and death.

Scorsese makes a strong point of this throughout Irishman. We spend a lot of time with elderly Frank, and we follow him through events such as the way he plans for his own funeral.

In Irishman, Scorsese introduces real-life characters and superimposes text to relate when and how they (violently) died. Whereas the roles of GoodFellas remained defiant to the end, those in Irishman show a greater weariness and emphasis on the dark side of the gangster dream, such as our view of Frank’s estranged relationship with his daughter.

All of these factors mean that Irishman should offer a deep, meaningful alternate take on the gangster world. We usually get the more wild films like GoodFellas, so the gloomier, more somber tone of Irishman sounds appealing and intriguing.

Unfortunately, Scorsese creates such a long, sluggish tale that these themes fail to connect. Again, the movie’s extreme running time becomes a substantial liability.

No stranger to extended movie lengths, Scorsese nonetheless has grown willing to stretch attention spans over the last few decades. GoodFellas clocked in at a long but reasonable 145 minutes, but Casino nearly touched three hours, and Scorsese continued to push with “epic” times after that.

Irishman goes well beyond those spans, though. The 179-minute Wolf of Wall Street stood as Scorsese’s prior longest film, and Irishman blows past it by half an hour.

Three-hour-plus movies aren’t a bad thing in and of themselves, as long as the filmmakers fill them with necessary content. Unfortunately, Scorsese seems unable to determine when he needs three hours and when he doesn’t.

One running theme of my reviews for Scorsese’s longer movies is that they seem padded and they run out of steam. That certainly feels true for Irishman, as it throws much more at the screen than it needs.

Irishman often feels more like a collection of vaguely connected scenes than a true narrative. We hop across eras and characters with alacrity, and these fail to cohere in the necessary manner.

As such, the movie turns into a considerable drag, and I can’t help but feel that Irishman would become much more effective if it lost an hour of running time. We find too much material that becomes borderline superfluous.

A tighter cut would lose the fat and improve the overall impact, as it’d allow us to better focus on the main characters and the themes. Because Scorsese pads the flick with so much less than crucial material, it all turns into a mishmash.

On the more positive side, no Scorsese fan can feel displeased to see De Niro back in the fold for the first time in 25 years, especially because Irishman reunites Bob with Pesci – also for the first time since 1995. Toss in Harvey Keitel – not seen in a Scorsese flick since 1988’s Last Temptation of Christ - and it’s like Old Home Week, in a fun way.

In addition, Irishman pairs Scorsese and Pacino for the first time ever. We get Pacino and De Niro onscreen together for only the third occasion after 1995’s Heat and 2008’s Righteous Kill. (Of course, both appeared in 1974’s Godfather Part II but they never acted in the same scenes there.)

All of those factors provide some enjoyment, but they also spotlight the failures of Irishman. With so much legendary talent, how could the end result seem so blah?

Unfortunately, “blah” is where we land. Though it can offer a moderately entertaining walk through history, The Irishman runs too long and seems too unfocused to deliver the goods.


The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Irishman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an appealing presentation.

Sharpness appeared strong, with a consistently tight, concise image. Any signs of softness appeared miniscule at most.

No issues with moiré effects or jaggies materialized, and I witnessed no signs of edge haloes or source flaws.

Irishman opted for a strong mix of teal, amber and orange, with only occasional instances of other hues. Despite the limitations of these choices, they boasted good vivacity and represented the intended hues.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while low-light shots offered good smoothness and clarity. Ultimately, the image was outstanding.

In addition, the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack suited the material. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the mix didn’t excel, but it worked fine.

Though the audio took time to warm up, as much of the movie’s first act showed limited scope. These scenes bordered on monaural at times.

However, the soundfield opened up fairly well as matters progressed. Music filled the spectrum more fully, and effects added involvement.

Much of the flick went with ambience, but violent scenes contributed more active information. Though none of this ever formed a truly impressive soundscape, the track still broadened well as it went.

Audio quality also pleased. The songs/score boasted fine range and impact, though the limitations of the old tunes could hold down these components.

Speech came across as natural and concise, whereas effects seemed accurate and realistic. Nothing here dazzled, but the track worked for the movie.

All of the set’s extras appear on a second disc, and there we open with Making The Irishman, a 36-minute, 10-second documentary. It offers notes from director Martin Scorsese, casting director Ellen Lewis, author Charles Brandt, producers Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Jane Rosenthal and Irwin Winkler, visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, director of photography Rodrigo Prieto, costume designers Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson, production designer Bob Shaw, location manager Kip Myers, and actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Kathrine Narducci, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Anna Paquin and Stephen Graham.

“Making” covers story and characters, cast and performances, Scorsese’s work on the shoot, visual effects and photography, costumes, production design and locations. While not the most thorough “Making of” show I’ve seen, this one covers a good array of bases and becomes a worthwhile piece.

Next comes a Roundtable Conversation with Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and actor Joe Pesci. It goes for 18 minutes, 59 seconds as they discuss their relationships and their work on the film. We get some decent nuggets here, though the main appeal stems from the interaction of these four legends together at a table.

Gangsters’ Requiem offers a 21-minute, 27-second video essay from critic Farran Smith Nehme. She discusses story and thematic elements as well as interpretation and connections to the Scorsese filmography. Nehme brings a solid take on the flick.

With Anatomy of a Scene, we get a five-minute, five-second reel that takes a closer look at the “Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night” sequence. Scorsese offers commentary that discusses aspects of this segment and offers some good insights.

The Evolution of De-Aging As Seen In The Irishman runs 12 minutes, 55 seconds and brings remarks from Scorsese, Helman, Prieto, Netflix Head of VFX Andy Fowler, ILM head Rob Bredow, ILM associate VFX supervisors Nelson Sepulveda and Leandro Estbecorena, associate VFX supervisor Ivan Busquets, ILM digital character model supervisor Paul Giacoppo, ILM layout supervisor John Levin, ILM texture paint supervisor Jean Bolte, ILM visual effects producer Brian Batlettani, face capture supervisor Stephane Grabli, and ILM executive producer Jill Brooks.

Though the title implies we’ll learn about de-aging effects from over the years, “Evolution” really just discusses those techniques in Irishman. Though the featurette leans a little heavily toward self-praise, it nonetheless provides various useful tidbits.

In addition to two trailers, the disc concludes with two Archival Interviews. We hear from Frank Sheeran (5:48) and Jimmy Hoffa in (17:21),

The first segment shows an elderly Sheeran as he discusses some of his experiences. He reveals a few decent notes but the clip feels interesting more for curiosity value.

A 1963 TV piece from journalist David Brinkley, the Hoffa segment gives us a snapshot from the era, with much of it from one interview between Hoffa and Brinkley. It becomes easily the more compelling of the two.

The set includes a booklet. This provides photos, credits and an essay from film historian Geoffrey O’Brien. It ends matters well.

Given its cast and crew, The Irishman comes with huge expectations, but it can’t live up to those hopes. Too long and too disjointed, the movie disappoints. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals along with solid audio and an informative set of supplements. Irishman doesn’t connect like it should.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main