The Irishman: Everything we know about Netflix’s effects-heavy mob drama

Netflix went all-in on the Academy Award chase with The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s mob drama that reunites Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci with the celebrated director — and throws in Al Pacino for good measure. The film debuted in November at the 2019 New York Film Festival and arrived on Netflix for streaming audiences November 27.

With the film receiving positive reviews from both general audiences and professional critics, here’s everything we know about The Irishman.

The first trailer

It’s hard to upstage Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Martin Scorsese, but the effects in The Irishman‘s first trailer did exactly that. The action-packed teaser ended with a shot of a digitally de-aged De Niro, who looks almost exactly like he did 40 years ago.

The story (and the effects that bring it to life)

The Irishman is based on Charles Brandt’s 2003 true crime novel I Heard You Paint Houses, which tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a prolific mob hit man who also worked for notorious Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa. The Irishman tracks Sheeran’s rise through the ranks of America’s criminal underworld after he returned from military service, including his ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Kennedy assassination, and Hoffa’s disappearance.

De Niro plays Sheeran in The Irishman, which presented director Martin Scorsese with a unique problem: Sheeran’s story spans decades, and De Niro is already 75 years old. His co-star, 79-year-old Al Pacino, plays Hoffa. They’re too old for these parts, rights?

Not exactly. For The Irishman, Scorsese utilized the same kinds of digital de-aging effects seen in last spring’s Captain Marvel, which returned Samuel L. Jackson to his mid-1990s prime.

The cast

The Irishman has a truly star-studded cast, and with Scorsese at the helm, you’d expect nothing less. In addition to De Niro and Pacino, The Irishman co-stars Pesci, who won an Academy Award for his work in Scorsese’s Goodfellas, as mob boss Russell Bufalino, and frequent Scorsese collaborator Harvey Keitel as mafia don Angelo Bruno.

They’re joined by Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran, Bobby Cannavale as Philadelphia mob captain “Skinny Razor” DiTullio, and Ray Romano as Hoffa’s lawyer, Bill Bufalino, among others.

An Oscar hopeful?

Like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma in 2018, Netflix is betting big on The Irishman for the 2020 Academy Awards. The Irishman has had a theatrical run to make sure it qualifies for the Oscars, while the cast and crew is full of former Oscar winners, including De Niro, Pesci, Pacino, Paquin, and eight-time nominee Scorsese.

Still, not everyone is happy that Netflix continues to push for awards season gold, and there’s bound to be some controversy over whether The Irishman should be part of next year’s Oscars competition.

Earlier this year, Steven Spielberg claimed that movies produced for a streaming service, no matter how good they are, should be considered TV movies, since they’re primarily intended to be watched on the small screen. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t necessarily agree. A few months later, the rules committee for the 2020 Academy Awards committed to the existing format, which keeps a movie in Oscars contention as long as it screens in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County for seven days.

For its part, Netflix continues to push for trophies. Not only did Roma win three Academy Awards, including best director, but Netflix purchased Los Angeles’ landmark Egyptian Theater, giving the streamer a venue to screen films like The Irishman to make sure that they qualify for the Oscars.

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