Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Irishman’ on Netflix: Is This Even Something We Want?

Eyebrows were raised last week when IndieWire reported that Martin Scorsese’s (no stranger to prominent eyebrows himself) next film, The Irishman, featuring both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, had been picked up for distribution by Netflix.

Whoa. A movie led by three silver screen legends, bypassing the silver screen entirely. What a breakthrough! What a 21st century moment! What a… no, wait a… wait a second here. Does this even feel right?

Personally speaking, despite vastly preferring the at-home viewing experience to the local multiplex, something sounded off about this news. Like, shouldn’t a Scorcese film always have a theatrical run? Paramount had initially been on-board to carry The Irishman but the dismal box office performance of Scorcese’s Silence this winter changed that.

Now, we know great stuff can emerge first online. Oscar-nominated 13th and Virunga in 2014 are examples. But those are documentaries—not quite the same. The Irishman is looking like the swan song for three cinematic legends. Scorcese is 74 years old. De Niro is 73. Pacino 76. This is it, folks. The Godfather 4 and Heat 2 are not coming (let’s hope not, anyway).

And Scorcese isn’t letting a few wrinkles get in his way, In fact, a healthy chunk of the film’s $100 million budget is going towards Benjamin Button-style CGI to reverse Father Time’s effects for various scenes. The film is based on the true story of Frank Sheeran, a Teamsters official with ties to the Bufalino crime family who confessed to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa before his death in 2003.

More than a year after Amazon secured the distribution rights for Manchester by the Sea, it still hasn’t made the film available for streaming. That doesn’t mean I haven’t checked and wasn’t hoping to see a Best Picture nominee before the Academy Awards. But I’ll admit, not being able to watch it on my tablet in bed did add a certain level of elusive class to the movie. It’s like the pretty girl sitting in the VIP section at the club. There’s an aura around her that’s just not there if you catch her buying a Slurpee at 7-11.

Now, all of this could be moot, since Variety reported that distributor STX (which purchased all non-U.S. distribution rights last year at Cannes for $50 million) is PO’d over Mexican producer Gaston Pavlovich’s pending deal with Netflix.

But regardless of how it plays out, The Irishman deserves a big screen debut. It’s shaping up to be the final gangster movie from the kings of gangster movies. And Scorcese films – even the misfires – don’t guzzle Slurpees, they sip champagne.

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Sam Jordan

Sam Jordan

Sam Jordan is a freelance writer, editor, and comedian.

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