Crime with a fine line in cankered comedy-cynicism

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Crime with a fine line in cankered comedy-cynicism

After ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’, here’s another tree with golden rotten apples, sumptuously shaken

Nigel Andrews

Every gangster movie is about deaths. But how many are about death? That’s the wonder, originality and profundity of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

A three-and-a-half-hour journey through “Underworld USA”, as moviemanes and mythomanes have sometimes dubbed the gangster realm, the film is like a true trip to Hades. Or a long gaze at its brochure. Which is better? To die in a bullet hail, a simple, ambushed sinner/criminal; or to go to death slowly and unshriven, like the bodyguard and career hit-man character (played by Robert De Niro), whose keeping of his most closely guarded secret is both his last vice and his last virtue?

Scripted by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) from Charles Brandt’s book about events leading to the 1975 disappearance and probable murder of powerful union leader Jimmy Hoffa, the movie starts and ends in an old people’s home. The white-haired wrinkly voicing his story is Irish-American Frank Sheeran (De Niro). We flash back to the same character, 40ish and older, also played by De Niro, as he switchbacks and switchblades through the century’s middle decades...

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