There’s been a lot of talk. Where’s The Irishman? We gotta know. We’re more than a little excited. Martin Scorsese‘s Netflix crime saga starring three of the all-time, inarguably great mob actors (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci) was noticeably absent from the festival circuit until the New York Film Festival recently announced it’s entry for September. Whispers that the de-aging technology required for its leads was not up-to-snuff and would pale in comparison to the Marvel Studios model gave us pause. Where’s the trailer? Give us the trailer. We need the trailer.
Relax. The official teaser is here, and it packs a wallop. Sure, much of the conversation will inevitably surround the uncanny valley and the youthful faces on display. We’re less interested in that around these offices. The technology is the technology. Rumor has it that Netflix dropped upwards to $200 million on it. Good for them. They’ve got the scratch. It will be what it will be. More importantly, The Irishman is a new Marty movie. That’s always a reason to anticipate and lose yourself in excitement. Especially when the film is focused around one of the great mafia mysteries.
Where’d ya go, Jimmy Hoffa? He vanished from this Earth on July 30th, 1975. He was 62 years old and probably strapped to a pair of cement shoes…or worse. There’s a lot to consider in the first official teaser for The Irishman. So, let’s get on with it.
A phone rattles a few rings as Frank Sheeran (De Niro) crosses Ninth Street in South Philadelphia. The Villa Di Roma restaurant and bar opened in 1963. A little light snooping around the internet will reveal several criminals of interest that dined within, including our titular Irishman.
Sheeran was a truck driver-turned hitman for the Bufalino Crime Family. Towards the end of his life, Sheeran confessed his responsibility in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. He told his exploits to Charles Brandt, and they were transformed into the book I Heard You Paint Houses in 2004. The film uses the memoir as a jumping-off point, and as you can see from several shots later on in the trailer, Sheeran’s “story” ventures into much murkier waters than one gangland killing.
Joe Pesci answers the phone, “Hello? How are you, my friend?” Meet Russell Bufalino a.k.a. McGee a.k.a. The Old Man. He was a Sicilian-born kingpin who reigned over the Bufalino family between 1959 and 1989. He and his clan originally settled in Buffalo, and as a teenager, he became associated with a whole heap of top-level mobsters. In the twenties, he made a killing while bootlegging and built a reputation strong enough to be placed as an underboss in Pennsylvania. He acted as a mentor to Sheeran and introduced the goon to Jimmy Hoffa, the friend on the other end of the line, “I got that kid I was talking about here.” De Niro – “kid,” try not to giggle.
“Hiya Frank, this is Jimmy Hoffa.” Pacino lookin’ good as Hoffa sitting behind his International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) desk in Washington D.C. The American labor union leader is a terrifying legend and has already seen himself portrayed notably by the likes of Jack Nicholson (Hoffa) and Robert Blake (Blood Feud). I expect to see the bravado cranked up to eleven for this one.
Hoffa scored notice early on as a union activist. Before he was forty, Hoffa earned the rank of IBT Vice President. Five years later, Hoffa was the President, and he would remain in that position until two years before his disappearance. He was never a truck driver like Frank Sheeran, but through his financial fights on their behalf, Hoffa was treated as a god amongst them. Here we see the boss wading through a crowd of drivers with banners preaching “Jimmy Hoffa Gets Us A Decent Wage.” His status as a bulldog for the working man garnered a lot of muscle.
“We always win with Jimmy!” Despite the love of the little guy, Hoffa caught the ire of the law almost immediately after he was named President of the IBT in 1957. He was investigated scrupulously as part of the McClellan Senate hearings probing corruption within the Teamsters, and when John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960, Hoffa was placed on Bobby Kennedy’s Attorney General hit-list.
Bobby Kennedy’s “Get Hoffa Squad” assembled and caused a great deal of concern for the mobsters associated with the union leader. Russell Bufalino would certainly have sicced an individual like Frank Sheeran against JFK’s baby brother. In his memoir, Sheeran claims that Hoffa requested several deadly fixes and he was happy to oblige.