At long last, our first substantive look at Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated organized-crime epic The Irishman has arrived. The footage offers us a revealing preview of the film’s de-aging effects, as well as its ambitious scope—The Irishman is, indeed, the story of its eponymous hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his lethal exploits, but it’s also much more.
The Irishman’s official synopsis describes the film as “an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century.” Hollywood legends Al Pacino and Joe Pesci portray two of those notorious figures, Jimmy Hoffa and Russell Bufalino, respectively; it’s through crime family head Bufalino that Italian mob-approved Irishman Sheeran is introduced to labor union leader Hoffa, who recruits him to “paint houses” for the cause.
As the whirlwind teaser shows us, that fateful connection is only the beginning: Sheeran finds himself embroiled in a large-scale conflict between Hoffa’s cohort, “big business and the government,” which will somehow culminate in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination—meanwhile, the seeds of doubt are sown about Hoffa’s trustworthiness, with Pesci expertly delivering a classically cryptic mafioso threat as Bufalino: “You might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation,” he warns. It all adds up to “a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics,” and perhaps mob movie master Scorsese’s definitive statement on a subject he’s been wrangling his whole career.
Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated Wolf of Wall Street and Silence collaborator Rodrigo Prieto returns to lens The Irishman, a fact you’ll appreciate from the teaser’s very first, neon-punctuated frame, and Scorsese’s longtime, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker is another key part of the equation. But the main attraction here—arguably the film’s single most make-or-break element—is a digitally de-aged De Niro, transformed by Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic so as to knock a few decades off the venerable actor’s 75 years and portray a younger Sheeran. From what we’re shown—very little until the teaser’s end, naturally—it appears The Irishman just might pull this off.
It also doesn’t hurt that the film’s cast is impressive from top to bottom: De Niro, Pacino and Pesci are accompanied by Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Paul Herman, Gary Basaraba and Marin Ireland. Steven Zaillan (Gangs of New York) adapted the film’s script from Charles Brandt’s 2005 book I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa.
Save a February teaser that aired during the 91st Academy Awards, but didn’t include any actual footage from the film, Netflix had been mostly mum on Scorsese’s latest until this week, when the streamer shared a pair of first-look photos from the film and announced that it would have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival in late September.
The Irishman hits select theaters and Netflix this fall. Watch the first teaser for the film below.