The Irishman is not your typical Mob film; but when you have Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and director Martin Scorsese, then you have a must-see film. The film has it all, crime, the Mafia, politics, and history as it touches on Washington with the Kennedy election and assassination, the Bay of Pigs and Watergate.

The story unfolds as it is narrated by De Niro in his older years, sitting alone, in a wheelchair in an assisted living home. His eyes are cloudy, but his memory sharp as he relates his story to the audience in his quiet, deadpan way that belies his sociopathic behavior. 

De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a World War II vet who fights his way up through Italy. After the war he starts working as a truck driver for a meat company. Then, through a weird twist of fate, he becomes a hit-man for the mob, a union boss with the Teamsters and a close confidant and best friend of Jimmy Hoffa. In telling the story of Sheeran through the years he uses of multiple flashbacks and jumps in history. So, pay close attention to the time period. 

De Niro’s character is a much more likable character than the real-life Sheeran, who is shown in the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt. In the book Sheeran comes across as a thug and a loudmouth. On the other hand, De Niro specializes in playing characters close to the vest, and he creates a different character than the one the book portrays.  

DeNiro is always at his best when he plays men who are cut-off from the rest of the world. No one is allowed in. No one is allowed to know what he thinks about a subject or situation. But the audience is always given that subtle hint by a look or a glance that presages what is going to happen –this is in opposition to a mistake many young actors make by trying to overact or emote in a scene when just a glance will do. 

Remember the scene in Goodfellas when De Niro is smoking in a bar and staring at a member of the crew, who shoots off his mouth too much. As he takes a drag from his cigarette, we see a brief glance. Henry Hill sees it too. “Just like that, I knew that Jimmy was gonna whack Morrie. That’s how it happens. That’s how fast it takes for a guy to get whacked.” It was brilliantly done by De Niro and Scorsese then. “The Irishman” has several of these moments too.

The biggest question that I had before watching the film was that with all of the main characters aging, how would they make them appear younger for the flashback scenes. Well, there is a new CGI technique that at first de-ages the main stars of the film and shows them as much younger men. Then the filmmakers reverses the process to show them as old as he wants. While the technique isn’t exactly spot-on yet, it is good enough and shouldn’t really detract from anyone’s film experience.

Although here is the ultimate caveat: While CGI can make the actors “appear” younger, it isn’t a fountain of youth. In one scene , for example, in which De Niro is climbing over and around rocks on the shore in an attempt to ditch guns from a hit, he doesn’t look like a guy in his 30s or 40s…but that is nitpicking.