In September 2014, The Irishman was confirmed as Scorsese's next film following Silence (2016). De Niro and Pacino were confirmed that month, as was Pesci, who came out of his unofficial retirement to star after being asked numerous times to take the role. Principal photography began in September 2017 in New York City and in the Mineola and Williston Park sections of Long Island, and wrapped in March 2018. With a production budget of $159 million, it is one of the most expensive films of Scorsese's career.
The Irishman had its world premiere at the 57th New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019 and is scheduled to receive a limited theatrical release on November 1, 2019, followed by digital streaming on Netflix on November 27, 2019. The film received widespread acclaim, with critics highlighting the technical aspects, direction, screenplay, and the performances of De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci. Several critics have referred to the film as being among the finest of Scorsese's career.
The Irishman is the story of Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman and World War II veteran who develops his skills during his service in Italy. Now an old man, he reflects on the events that defined his career as a hitman, particularly the role he played in the disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, his longtime friend, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family.
Martin Scorsese had long been interested in directing a film adaptation of Charles Brandt's I Heard You Paint Houses, and in casting De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci. The film started its development phase in 2007. In July 2009, Brandt received a phone call from De Niro that led to a meeting a month later between the two of them, Scorsese and screenwriter Steven Zaillian. The meeting was supposed to last an hour but ended up lasting four hours. Brandt said that "the material was new to them" and Zaillian already had a script ready, but the additions Brandt required a do-over. To help, Brandt handed over a screenplay of his own. Brandt said, "Zaillian is a great writer, don't get me wrong [...] I wanted to log the material." The new materials and rewrites caused the movie to lose its place in the film release calendar, and Scorsese went on to direct three more films, Hugo (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Silence (2016), before returning to The Irishman. In September 2014, after years of development hell, Pacino confirmed that the film would be Scorsese's next project after Silence. In October 2015, De Niro stated that the film was still happening and could start filming in 2016 and Zaillian was confirmed as screenwriter.
In July 2017, it was reported that the film would be presented as a series of flashbacks of an older Frank Sheeran, depicted as recollecting his many criminal activities over several decades, with De Niro appearing "as young as 24 years and as old as 80." Producer Irwin Winkler defined the project as "the coming together of people that have worked together since we're kids together", while Rosenthal said that "what will surprise you is, as a Scorsese movie, it is a slower movie [...] it is guys looking at themselves through an older perspective."
There's a great deal of CGI because we're doing this youthification of De Niro, Pesci, and Al Pacino. They had to be CGI [...] Why I'm concerned, we're all concerned is that we're so used to watching them as the older faces. When we put them all together, it cuts back and forth [...] Now, it's real. Now, I'm seeing it. Now, certain shots need more work on the eyes, need more work on why these exactly the same eyes from the plate shot, but the wrinkles and things have changed. Does it change the eyes at all? If that's the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?
Industrial Light & Magic and visual effects supervisorPablo Helman handled the effects for the film. In August 2015, Scorsese and De Niro made a test reel by recreating a scene from Goodfellas (1990), to see if the de-aging could work. 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." In March 2018, speaking about the de-aging process, Pacino told IndieWire: "I was playing Jimmy Hoffa at the age of 39, they're doing that on a computer [...] we went through all these tests and things [...] someone would come up to me and say, 'You're 39.' [You'd recall] some sort of memory of 39, and your body tries to acclimate to that and think that way. They remind you of it." In the opening credits, the film is titled I Heard You Paint Houses, the name of the novel on which the picture is based on, while the title The Irishman never appears onscreen.
By February 2017, Paramount Pictures had dropped domestic distribution rights for The Irishman following the announcement that Fábrica de Cine would not be financing the film due to its climbing budget. Netflix then bought the film for $105 million and agreed to finance the film's $125 million budget with a release date set for October 2019. In March 2018, it was also reported the film's budget had ballooned from $125 million to $140 million, due in large part to the visual effects needed to make De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci appear younger at various points throughout the film. By August of that year, the cost had reportedly risen to as much as $175 million, and by the time post-production had wrapped some publications said it was $200 million.
In August 2019, it was reported that the film's official cost was $159 million.
Canadian musician Robbie Robertson supervised the soundtrack. It features both original and existing music tracks.
The film will not play at the theaters owned by AMC, Cinemark, Regal or Cineplex, because the "four week progression to SVOD remains unacceptable to those chains." It was previously reported in February 2019 that Netflix would possibly give the film a wide theatrical release, at the request of Scorsese. The heads of several theater chains, including AMC's Adam Aron, who refused to play Roma the previous November, said they would only be open to playing The Irishman if Netflix "respects the decades old theatrical window, that suggests that movies come to theaters first for a couple of months, and then go to the home."
On review aggregatorRotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 100% approval rating based on 78 reviews, with an average rating of 9.17/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "An epic gangster drama that earns its extended runtime, The Irishman finds Martin Scorsese revisiting familiar themes to poignant, funny, and profound effect."Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 94 out of 100 based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Writing for TIME, Stephanie Zacharek gave The Irishman a perfect score, calling the film "clever and entertaining, to the point where you may think that's all it's going to be" and that "its last half-hour is deeply moving in a way that creeps up on you, and it's then that you see what Scorsese was working toward all along"; she also added 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." Similarly, Owen Gleiberman of Variety called it "a coldly enthralling, long-form knockout — a majestic Mob epic with ice in its veins", particularly praising Pacino's performance as "the film's most extraordinary."RogerEbert.com's Matt Zoller Seitz gave the film three and half stars out of four, defining Scorsese "one of the greatest living, though still largely unsung, comedy directors" and also praised the editing of Thelma Schoonmaker.
Benjamin Lee of The Guardian wrote that in the film "there's an almost meta-maturity, as if Scorsese is also looking back on his own career, the film leaving us with a haunting reminder not to glamorise violent men and the wreckage they leave behind." Mike Ryan of Uproxx called it a "phenomenal film", stating that the de-aging is "pretty good" and "the best I've seen so far", but noted that "if you stare at it, yes, you can see the imperfections [...] but you do get used to it", while Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post wrote that the film has "a different tone than your average gangster film" and that "Scorsese is at the top of his game [...] his film is never boring, and it explores some unexpectedly deep themes for mafiosos."IndieWire's Eric Kohn stated that "The Irishman is Martin Scorsese's best crime movie since Goodfellas, and a pure, unbridled illustration of what has made his filmmaking voice so distinctive for nearly 50 years", reserving particular praise to Steven Zaillian's screenplay, writing that "Zaillian hasn't delivered a script this polished since Moneyball."David Edelstein wrote for Vulture that "Pesci [...] plays Bufalino as almost supernaturally focused and watchful, always hypersensitive to other peoples' rhythms [...] I thank the gods of acting that he came out of retirement to do this." He also praised De Niro and Pacino, stating that The Irishman is one of Scorsese's "most satisfying films in decades." Writing for TheWrap, Alonso Duralde praised Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography and Scorsese's direction, writing that "at the age of 76, Scorsese is embracing new technologies with the fervor of Ang Lee [...] and indulging in retro fantasy with the keen eye of Quentin Tarantino."
While giving a positive review, David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter criticized the runtime, stating that "the excessive length ultimately is a weakness" and "that the material would have been better served by losing an hour or more to run at standard feature length." Writing for the National Review, Kyle Smith gave a more critical review, saying that "while it's a good film, it isn't a great one" and also commented that "[The Irishman] could easily be trimmed by 30 minutes or more by tightening up the midsection." Conversely, Richard Brody of The New Yorker wrote "it runs a minute shy of three and a half hours, and I wouldn't wish it any shorter", and Karen Han of Polygon said that "Scorsese is so adept at storytelling, and his cast is so unbelievable, that the film [...] barely feels its length."
The Irishman generated extremely positive responses from industry figures. Guillermo del Toro, commenting the film on his Twitter account, compared it to Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and praised the performances of De Niro, Pacino and, especially, Pesci, calling him "supremely minimalistic" and "masterful" and he went on to define The Irishman a "masterpiece" and "the perfect corollary Goodfellas and Casino."Edgar Wright wrote, "The Irishman [...] feels like a riposte to the imitators of Goodfellas who revel only in the parts about the 'glamour' of the business. This film coldly makes the point that this life way of life leads only to death, inside and out."Ava DuVernay also praised the film, writing: "running time is 3 hours and some change. For me, it flew by [...] A film made by a filmmaker who feels free. Who has all the tools. All the time. All the talent. And lives up to it. Wow."