So...I watched it on Netflix, in two sittings. It was long, and slow. It was good, that’s what the reviews said, so it must be so. And it was.
A very different tenor from Scorsese’s own Goodfellas, or Coppola’s Godfather films, which are the natural comparisons. Goodfellas was just a heist film. To be sure, the heist was a big one, but that’s all it was, a heist. The Godfather films were not heist films; they were underbelly epics. And the first two were excellent (I’m not a fan of the third). The second one took us to Cuba. The Irishman didn’t actually go to Cuba, but it took a look; Meyer Lansky was mentioned, for example, there was some Cubafootage.
We glanced at, caromed off of JFK – I’m thinking Oliver Stone’s film; there’s news footage of the parade in which Kennedy was shot. At one point the Joe Pesci character, I believe it was, says something to the effect that if they – the top bosses on the mob – could reach Kennedy, they can reach Hoffa, who’d been a very powerful all over TV labor leader of the 3rd quarter of the previous century. And that, as I’m sure you know, is what this film is about: Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa and Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, his driver, bodyguard, and companion.
I pretty much forget Stone’s film about the Kennedy assassination, except that it was a conspiracy theory film. I forget just which conspiracy theory it was pushing, but that doesn’t matter. It was saying, the world isn’t as it seems, there are dark forces at work. Of course we all know that, don’t we?
The Irishman participates in the dark forces world view, unlike Goodfellas, which was just a heist film, flamboyant and grisly. Out here in the real world we never learned how or why Hoffa was killed or who did it. The Irishman, in fiction world (FAKE WORLD?), proposes answers, answers consistent with the implications of a belief that the Kennedy assassination was a mob hit. But now the mob has pretty much become Tony Soprano, who was just a gangster, with a family. In Scorsese’s film Hoffa’s killer had a family too. Hoffa was close to the killer’s daughter, and was connected to the mob, but couldn’t actually be in the mob because, you know, he was Irish, not Italian – a motif central to Goodfellas too: I was an outsider accepted inside the mob.
So there we have it, an outsider family man in the mob, teamsters, Cuba, JFK, Hoffa’s murdered: dark forces in America. This does not bode well for 2020.