I am not a big Martin Scorsese fan. I know that makes me a Cretin, but there it is. I liked some of Scorsese’s early films, but most of the later films leave me cold.
The Irishman tells the story of Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran a Philadelphia mob hit man reputedly involved in the mysterious disappearance of the Teamsters’ union boss Jimmy Hoffa in 1975. It’s a movie about ‘ordinary’ mobsters growing old and loosing their claws. It stars some of our favorite actors also growing old. It took nearly an hour of watching the film before I started to warm to it.
I think I started to like it about when Jimmy Hoffa remarked, “The government and big business are coming after us when we need unity. We need solidarity.” Mobsters and corrupt union bosses may be of dubious character, but they need to get along with others. Their lives depend on it. At least so they think.
Technically, like any Scorsese film, it is brilliant. It is a period piece that really feels like it belongs to its era while speaking for all times. it employs some great technology to make some of the actors look a lot younger or older than they are. That was pretty neat. Before the film is over, all the old men are dead or in jail. Frank’s daughter who witnessed him explode at a grocer who had in his view been disrespectful to Sheeran’s young daughter was obviously scared of her own father. After that she felt she could not come to him for help. It was too likely to turn violent.
The mobsters are family men. Is that enough for us to have fellow feeling for them? It helps, but is it sufficient? The mobsters are kind to each other’s children and spouses. Does that make them good people? I don’t think so. These are family men who can kill ruthlessly.
In one scene, old Frank, went in a wheel chair to pick out a casket. He bought a green casket. Does that signify renewal? I admit I did not find much regenerative in this film. Scorsese showed the mobsters as ordinary people, with wives, children, girlfriends and friends, but was not able to put a lot of life into this film.
After Hoffa disappears the cops question Frank as to his involvement and he refuses to speak. Frank says, “I can’t.” He can’t rat out anyone. It is not in his DNA. The Code of the Mobster is too strong, even when there is no reason to be bound by it anymore.
When he is old and in personal care home, he asks the nurse, “I’m still alive?” The nurse responds positively and Frank replies, “It’s good to know.” Sometimes it is difficult to know if he is alive or not. Sometimes he sees to be part of the living dead now that he no longer has claws at least.
At the end of it all, his daughter asks him, ‘What’s the point?’ That’s the point.
I was intrigued by the conversation between the hit man and the mobster. They talked in Code. Like Trump and his people. They always talk in code so they have deniability. Like a judge or jury we are expected to make reasonable inferences about what is going on. Like when Trump asks the leader of the Ukraine to do him a favor when they are discussing the military aid he held back. He always wants to maintain deniability. That way the mobster can always claim, “The conversation was perfect.” But we all know what happened.
In the end, the old men have learned nothing. Frank refuses to rat out anyone, even though all his friends are dead. Even though it would make no difference he can’t rat them out.
The movie was worth seeing, but I would not say it was great.