The Irishman Theatrical Release Preview

One of the Year’s Best Movies


With all respect to Spielberg and Kubrick, you can easily make the case that Martin Scorsese is the most influential director of our time.

Scorsese’s bona fides speak for themselves. How many filmmakers have dropped at least one all-time classic movie in each of the last four decades? And although he’s known for his New York crime movies, his work spans a variety of genres (The Last Waltz, Kundun The Last Temptation of Christ).

Scorsese’s infinitely quotable filmography holds up to countless re-watches and features too many iconic moments to list off here. So, when this cinematic maestro drops a new film, it’s a big deal at That Shelf. And the word around town is that this filmmaker’s latest feature, The Irishman, is another masterwork.



The Irishman sees Scorsese once again team up with his long-time muse, Robert De Niro, who plays Frank Sheeran. Frank is a working-class truck driver who becomes a hitman for Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. Frank’s journey through the underworld leads to him working for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a famous and influential teamster tied to organized crime. Frank crosses path with a colourful cast of characters along the way fueled by memorable performances from Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, and Harvey Keitel.


Despite the movie’s gritty subject matter and reuniting the Scorsese-movie all-stars (De Niro, Pesci, Pacino), The Irishman doesn’t play like a greatest hits collection. While Scorsese is working in a familiar genre, he is breaking new ground. This film is perhaps the least flashy and most self-reflective crime flick in the filmmaker’s oeuvre.

While Goodfellas and Casino don’t have happy endings, Scorsese makes his slick looking depictions of gangster lifestyles feel seductive. The Irishman is far more wistful and melancholic. Gone are the flashy tracking shots and alluring depictions of gangster life. This picture is all about how things come to an end. At 76-years old, the filmmaker is examining his life and career, and these introspective themes are essential to what this movie is really about.

The film begins with a long tracking shot of an old folks’ home, and we travel back to the past and see the world from Frank’s perspective. And when the film introduces new characters during a flashback, it throws up title cards stating who they are and how they died (often horribly). What’s notable here is by the time we meet these people, to Frank, they’re already ghosts. Everything must come to an end, and this film explores the stories (and the lies) we tell ourselves along the way. These stories “explain” why we do what we do and define how people remember us.


Just because this film is heading to Netflix later this month doesn’t mean you should wait around to watch it on your couch. The Irishman is one of the best movies released this year, and its director, intended for people to enjoy it on a massive screen in a dark cinema. Need another reason that you should head out to watch this film at the cinema? It clocks in at three and a half hours, so watching it at the multiplex ensures there won’t be any interruptions. You might tell yourself you can pull off an uninterrupted 210-minute binge, but who are we kidding? You’re going to pick up your phone a few times, head to the fridge, and even take a pee break.


You can watch this move in a couple 90-minute chunks, sure. But you’re robbing yourself of the intended experience. Afterall, The Irishman is one of the year’s best films by one of cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. It’s a cinematic treasure that you’ll want to savour, and it’s more than deserving of your support when it arrives in a theatre near you.


The Irishman launches globally on Netflix on November 27th. But you can catch the film on the big screen at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting November 8th.

Moviegoers can catch the film at Vancouver (Vancity Theatre), Ottawa (Bytowne Cinema), and Montreal (Decarie, Cinéma Moderne) on November 15th.

And The Irishman will screen in Calgary (Plaza Theatre) and Edmonton (Metro Cinemas) on November 22nd.


The Irishman synopsis:

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

For more on The Irishman, check out That Shelf Managing Editor Jason Gorber’s review from NYFF.