What's The Irishman Really About? Not Who Killed Hoffa

In a New York Times editorial, the stepson of Chuckie O'Brien — the foster son of Jimmy Hoffa — calls The Irishman "by far the greatest depiction of the false charge against my stepfather." ... "My 86-year-old stepfather ... for more than half his life, 44 years ... has watched himself portrayed in news articles, books and motion pictures — most recently, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” — as someone he is not. The effect on his life has been devastating."

If you haven't watched The Irishman, watch it...

What’s that? Did Frank Sheeran really kill Jimmy Hoffa (and Joe Gallo, etc.)?

How about we put that aside for a sec -- this interest in solving murders. Let's take our Sherlock Holmes hats-- the deerstalkers -- off. If you want to learn about the Hoffa murder, we'll send you a list of books.

Here's a secret: Martin Scorsese doesn't give a rat's ass who killed James Riddle Hoffa. And Crazy Joey Gallo (and JFK, maybe).

If Scorsese truly cared about solving murder mysteries -- if he was going to make a film dedicated to the truth behind the Hoffa disappearance, he would have listened to what expert journalists like Dan Moldea have said regarding why Frank Sheeran couldn't possibly have done some of the things he claimed...

But ultimately Scorsese wasn't making a film about the Hoffa thing. The book, the subject, the I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES, that was simply the vehicle he used to make the gangster film he wanted to make after Goodfellas and Casino.

Goodfellas is about brotherhood, friendship...

Casino is about business, marriage, transactional relationships...

And The Irishman....?

DEATH, the Irishman is about DEATH...

It probably has the lowest body count of all his films. For a film about death, as we (and others) claim, there's not many murders.There's more restraint than murder. In fact the Irishman is about recognizing that after a certain point, there's no reason to kill (unless you're a psychopath who wants to kill everybody) when the threat, the perception, works just as well. Murder you save for the incorrigible -- those who stubbornly resist every single attempt to reason something out. You kill the guy who will never bend the inch you need to breathe. (Unless he's a rat of course, then you blow his brains out on the sidewalk .... But then, who knows? You could be wrong....)

Scorsese could tell Frank Sheeran's story and still say things he wanted to say. Sheeran's story "overlapped" with the story Scorsese really wanted to tell at this point in his career. A film about an aging gangster getting ready to die. (That's what The Irishman is about ... Not who killed Hoffa...)

The Irishman is a great film, the fastest three hours you'll ever spend. You'll realize that as great as you always knew Joe Pesci was, you had no idea how truly magnificent he could be... And Scorsese supposedly had to ask Pesci 50 times before he agreed to come out of retirement to make the film.

The Irishman was Martin Scorsese's decade-long passion project.

In an intriguing 10-page interview with Sight & Sound magazine Scorsese discusses his last gangster film -- and touches on topics like power, politics, the digital ‘de-aging’ process, bringing Al Pacino into the Scorsese fold, why he made the film for Netflix, and what he learned from his Bob Dylan documentaries -- in an exclusive extended interview.

“We had wanted to make a film together since Casino,” Scorsese told Philip Horne in the three-and-a-half-hour interview. 

“Bob said, ‘I’d rather, with the time we have left, revisit that world we feel comfortable in.’”

When DeNiro first presented The Irishman to him 10 years ago, he had been working on shooting a film based on bestselling author Don Winslow's The Winter of Frankie Machine.

 De Niro's passion for I Heard You Paint Houses, which became The Irishman, was what got Scorsese to seriously consider it.

“We had been playing around with (Frankie Machine) and that was a good example of something, ultimately, that I realized I cannot do,” said Scorsese.

Scorsese confessed to having a vague uneasiness about Frankie Machine.

“I tried. It’s a mixture of a genre – I just feel like I don’t want to do genre, meaning a real genre of… I guess the extension of the B film or noirish film in today’s marketplace. And the very fact of the place and genre limits us, and I couldn’t find where to go with that character – in this configuration, in this story.”

 (We read part of the Winslow book years ago. We understand what is meant by "it's a mixture of a genre" only we don't know what genres had been mixed exactly. While Frankie Machine easily is the beginning of one of the greatest mob books ever written, it also turns into something else entirely before you realize it. We'll have to give it another shot maybe.)

Paramount was locked and loaded on Frankie Machine, Scorsese says. "We had a deal actually, at Paramount Pictures. [The late Paramount head] Brad Grey said, ‘I’ll give you a green light,’ and on the phone, Bob (DeNiro) said, ‘Actually, we’ve found this other book.’ And he said, ‘Well…’”

The Irishman was slow-going and Scorsese made The Departed and Shutter Island. But he knew that his final mob film wasn't going to be about Frankie Machine. It would be about an Irishman.....

The Winter of Frankie Machine was described as a "blistering new take on the Mafia story."

Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex–surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront when he’s not juggling any of his other three part-time jobs or trying to get a quick set in on his longboard. He’s a stand-up businessman, a devoted father to his daughter, and a beloved fixture in the community. Frank’s also a hit man. Specifically: a retired hit man. Back in the day, when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine. Years ago Frank consigned his Mob ties to the past, which is where he wants them to stay. But a favor being called in now by the local boss is one Frank can’t refuse, and soon he’s sucked back into the treacherous currents of his former life. Someone from the past wants him dead. He has to figure out who, and why, and he has to do it fast. The problem is that the list of candidates is about the size of his local phone book and Frank’s rapidly running out of time....

No, the problem is, what West Coast mob?