When looking for a professional killer, the mob term is “I hear you paint houses.”
While I haven’t been in the market for a hitman lately, I did learn the phrase from reading a book of that title by Charles Brandt, a former homicide prosecutor who chronicled the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran.
Sheeran confessed to being a hitman for the Bufalino crime family. He even claimed to have been involved in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
Now Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) returns to his favorite subject – crime – by bringing this story to the screen as “The Irishman.”
The director has cast his favorite actor Robert De Niro in the title role. This is the ninth collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro (and their first since 1995’s “Casino”). And Scorsese has added two other of his faves, Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino and Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa.
In an article titled “One Last Hit,” it was reported that Pesci turned down the role 50 times before De Niro twisted his arm, saying, “We gotta do this. Who knows if there’ll be anything after?”
De Niro called the film “unfinished business” between him and Scorsese.
Not having made a film since 2010, Pesci came out of retirement for “The Irishman.” This is his 7th film collaboration with his pal Robert De Niro. Other familiar cast members include Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, and Ray Romano.
“The Irishman” is currently packing the house at Tropic Cinema.
Notable is that De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci were “de-aged” so they could play their roles from young men to old mobsters. Industrial Light & Magic handled the CGI special effects. Scorsese shot a scene with De Niro from “Goodfellas” to test the de-aging process.
Scorsese said that “the risk was there, and that was it. We just tried to make the film. After sitting on the couch for ten years … we finally had a way.”
A posture coach was brought in to show De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci on how to reflect the body motions of much younger men.
Pacino says, “I was playing Jimmy Hoffa at the age of 39, they’re doing that on a computer … someone would come up to me and say, ‘You’re 39.’ … Your body tries to acclimate to that and think that way. They remind you of it.”
Producer Gaston Pavlovich noted, “We were able to film Bob and just do a scene, we saw it come down to when he was twenty, forty, sixty, so we’re looking forward to that … seeing what De Niro looked like in ‘The Godfather: Part II’ days (1974). That’s pretty much how you’re going to see him again.”
Time magazine noted that “the de-aging is distracting at first … but the special effects are hardly a deal breaker, and in the end they probably add to the movie’s mythological vibe.”
As for this moviegoer, I’m into suspension of disbelief. “The Irishman” worked for me – even if (according to IMDb) there are no actual Irish men in the movie. But lots of Italians.
While the movie is titled “The Irishman,” that wording does not appear on screen until the end. True to the book, we see the phrase “I Heard You Paint Houses.”
This is undoubtedly Martin Scorsese’s best crime movie since “Goodfellas.” And it has De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci together. What more could you want?
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