An honest review of The Irishman

The Irishman is a quintessential Mafia epic, full of violence, loyalty and power.


Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

FILE – This Oct. 24, 2019 file photo shows Robert De Niro at the Los Angeles premiere of “The Irishman.” De Niro will receive the Screen Actors Guild’s life achievement award at its award show in January. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Netflix’s “The Irishman” is an instant classic that beautifully portrays an epic tale of power and loyalty; they are not the same, but one cannot work without the other. It’s the 1950s and Frank Sheeran, a World War II veteran, decides to become a truck driver; in dire need of extra money, Sheeran starts doing jobs under the table for the Mafia, committing crimes and inadvertently climbing the ranks as he does so.   

Before we get on with the review of the movie, here are some things that you SHOULD know before you watch.

First off, the movie is based on a true story, told by Frank Sheeran himself. Let’s backtrack a little bit. The 2004 nonfiction narrative written by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,” is viewed as Sheeran’s confession story. After being released from prison on early parole, Sheeran told Charles Brandt, a medical malpractice lawyer who played a big part in acquiring Sheeran’s early release, his life story. And throughout The Irishman, director Martin Scorsese pays homage to that fact by having Sheeran confess his sins throughout the movie to someone. 

All of the major characters you meet throughout the movie have all existed in real life. Characters like: Jimmy Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union; Russel Bufalino, boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family; Angelo Bruno, boss of a Philadelphia crime family; and of course–Frank Sheeran, a hitman for the Bufalino crime family were ALL real!

Now let’s get into the movie review. The movie jumps in between different time periods in Sheeran’s life, so it’ll be a little confusing to read about without watching it first. The movie opens by panning in on Sheeran in a retirement home, where he will be narrating throughout the movie. The movie is essentially full of flashbacks that have their own flashbacks, and they all seem to connect perfectly into one three and a half-hour movie.

“When I was young I thought house painters painted houses. But what do I know?” was Sheeran’s opening statement.

Painting houses in the crime world means anything but. The meaning of the phrase is simple: “To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the wall and floors,” Scorsese stated in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. 

The Irishman is a three and a half-hour thriller/crime drama, and the whole story revolves around a marriage involving Bill Bufalino’s daughter. More importantly, he [Bill] was Russel Bufalino’s cousin. Sheeran, Russel Bufalino, and their wives decide to drive down to the wedding because Bufalino had “some stops to make,” which meant collecting money. 

The Irishman is an emotional saga that dives into the depths of loyalty and trusting one another as if they were family, kind of like all mafia movies. It’s filled with powerful men who to the naked eye seem very dull and boring, but as the movie progresses, viewers are exposed to their inner lives that they rarely let anyone else see.   

The movie is a mix between a sad, violent, and oddly funny biographical recap of Frank Sheeran’s life. Throughout the film, you see his transition from a World War II veteran who is driving a truck to make some cash to a mafia hitman to make some more cash. In doing so, Sheeran unknowingly climbs the ranks by acquiring the trust of Jimmy Hoffa, the leader of the labor union known as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Once the trust is earned, Sheeran sees his way to becoming a union leader. The Irishman is a must-see classic that will leave you feeling like you’ve just experienced Frank Sheeran’s life as he is narrating it. There are many pieces to connect because the movie is a flashback of memories from the time all of the important characters were in their 40s, just meeting, to when they were no longer at the helm of the mafia crime world in their 80s and saying their goodbyes. The Irishman is another movie that will be added to director Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces, and there is never a dull moment when you’re asking yourself, “how much of the movie is left?”