In what could be his best movie since Goodfellas, solid reviews are piling up for Martin Scorsese's new movie The Irishman.
A passion project that has been on the director's radar for many years, it finds Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman for the infamous Bufalino crime family.
Adapted from the book I Heard You Paint Houses, penned about Sheeran's life from World War II veteran to high-ranking union official, it also stars Al Pacino as the mob-connected union leader Jimmy Hoffa, who went missing in 1975 and was never found.
Despite an epic runtime (well over three hours), critics are heaping the movie – which just opened the New York Film Festival – with praise, with a 100 percent 'fresh' rating thus far on Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 92 on Metacritic.
Variety says: “Martin Scorsese's The Irishman is a coldly enthralling, long-form knockout - a majestic Mob epic with ice in its veins.”
Writes The New York Times: “This is Scorsese’s least sentimental picture of mob life, and for that reason his most poignant.
“A monument is a complicated thing. This one is big and solid - and also surprisingly, surpassingly delicate.”
Writes Slashfilm: “This is not Goodfellas. This is not Casino. This is Scorsese at his most reflective, crafting a masterwork that finds the filmmaker reflecting on everything he's done, and what it's all amounted to. The results are breathtaking.”
Scorsese's movies have often been unashamedly violent, and perhaps even celebratory on occasion, but some critics mindful of this have even found themselves won over.
Writes Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair: “I found myself reluctantly taken by the movie, and the way Scorsese uses it to maybe, just a little bit, atone for some of his own past blitheness about violence.”
Adds The Guardian: “For much of its duration, The Irishman covers familiar ground but is slickly entertaining, if a little repetitive in the third hour. In the last 30 minutes, as the pace slows and the quips subside and the violence quells, we are suddenly made aware of the ultimate price of this lifestyle and of the crushing savagery of old age.
“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.”
Others have also taken issue with the movie's unwieldy run-time, notably The Hollywood Reporter, which calls it 'on many levels a beautifully crafted piece of deluxe cinema', but with some reservations.
“A melancholy sense of looking back... pervades the best parts of The Irishman, in which the elder statesman of organized crime in American movies, Martin Scorsese, reunites with his most totemic screen actor to tell a sprawling gangland saga that's by turns flinty, amusing, richly nostalgic and rueful,” it writes.
“Despite the movie's many pleasures and Scorsese's redoubtable directorial finesse, the excessive length ultimately is a weakness.”
The Irishman lands for a limited UK cinema from November 1, and then will stream on Netflix from November 27.