16 posts categorized "Crime Drama"

January 29, 2020


IrishmanIt will likely take a few years before audiences begin to appreciate “The Irishman” for what it is, a tremendous filmic social and character study of mafia influence that kept the wheels of industry turning in America for decades. Funny, gripping, and exquisitely crafted, “The Irishman” may well end up being considered Martin Scorsese’s greatest achievement. Cheers to that! This picture is a masterpiece, but you probably won’t think so when you watch it. Come back in five years and watch it again, you'll think differently.

Clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, “The Irishman” is to Martin Scorsese what “Sandinista” was to The Clash, a generous gift of art meant to entertain, inspire, and inform. More is more. Watching Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci ply their acting craft mastery under Scorsese’s insightful eye is an incomparable cinematic pleasure. What sublime joy. If Joe Pesci’s performance slips in more fun than you can have with your clothes on, that’s just garlic in the marinara sauce. This movie cooks with gas, on four burners.


This is Cinema, characters talking and taking action with available people and tools that seal their fate. Drama muthafuka. When Scorsese foreshadows gangsters’ deaths with chyrons, it adds a documentary element that hooks you in like wearing your Sunday suit to church when you were 15.

We meet Harvey Keitel’s Angelo Bruno at a restaurant meeting. “Angelo Bruno — shot in the head sitting in his car outside his house, 1980.” At least he wore nice suits. Doom waits around every corner for characters whose perception of reality isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” screenwriter Steve Zalian based his frequently hilarious script on Charles Brandt’s book of the same title. “The Irishman” is a neat bookend to “Gangs,” a film ruined by Harvey Weinstein’s influence, and by Cameron Diaz — but that’s another story.

Jimmy Hoffa may not remain the household name that it once was, but “The Irishman” puts a fine point on answering decades old burning questions about how Hoffa was killed, and how his body was disposed of. The film fulfills an essential public service. I'm not kidding.


The unbalanced friendship that develops between Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa and De Niro’s Frank Sheeran is the stuff of legend, real and imagined. You couldn’t call it a bromance, but the camaraderie on display is downright familial. To say that De Niro’s casting as an Irishman is a stretch might be an understatement, but the proof in his craft is flawless.

Wafts of Elaine May’s brilliant 1976 “Mickey and Nicky” breeze over “The Irishman” if only for the fraught connection between both films’ main characters. Linking Peter Falk to Robert De Niro, and John Cassavetes to Al Pacino is a joy you can discover if you’re enough of a movie lover to follow through. Indeed, “The Irishman” is long; thank you Martin Scorsese, cast, and crew for going over an beyond to create such a magnificent movie experience. Cheers!

Rated R. 202 mins. (A+)

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July 24, 2018


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April 23, 2018


You_were_never_really_hereIf only I had never really seen this atrocity of a movie I’d feel much better. That does it; I’m giving up on Lynne Ramsay for good. I loathed Ramsay’s last film “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (2011). Still, I was willing to give her latest effort a chance. Big mistake. I thought it possible that Ramsay had grown as a filmmaker. The complete opposite appears to be the case.

Ramsey steals a dozen little tropes from movies like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Taxi Driver” to piece together a baloney narrative that hangs together like wet seaweed on the beach. Some people might call it experimental, and I can see why. You certainly feel like a guinea pig being experimented on while watching this awful movie. Ramsey based her self-penned screenplay on Jonathan Ames’s novel, but you’d never guess that this movie had any formal underpinnings.


Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a hit man/cop killer who rescues underage girls from sex traffickers. A New York politician hires Joe to rescue his pubescent daughter. So topical, you think. Wrong. Ramsay treats the issue with such cavalier sloppiness that she trivializes sex trafficking into something so fake that it's no wonder so many people don't believe such a thing even exists. Judging from this film, it doesn't.

If revenge fantasy is your thing, Michael Winners 1974 “Death Wish” did it meaner and with real heart from the great Charles Bronson. Joaquin Phoenix just looks like he needs a good long nap. Joe suffers from delusions, so not everything we see is for real. Joe is a white dude sociopath whose chosen weapon is a hammer. If I never see Joaquin Phoenix with his shirt off, it will be too soon. 


If this set-up sounds like something you want or need to see for some imagined reason, just know that there is an underwater scene that is a very close copy of a similar scene in “The Shape of Water.” You could always stream “You Were Never Really Here” and turn it into a drinking game where you have to drink a shot every time you see a reference to another movie. The influences here are much more accessible (read lazy) than the arcane ones you find in a Tarantino movie. Then again Quentin Tarantino is a real filmmaker; Lynne Ramsey isn’t.

Rated R. 89 mins. (D-) Zero stars — out of five / no halves

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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