I broke my new rule. I watched a Hollywood production that didn’t feature conservatives in any way. In fact, it starred Robert De Niro, a man who is quickly becoming the most vile example of Hollywood’s Trump Derangement Syndrome. But I had to. It was De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Martin Scorsese in a movie based on one of the most interesting Americans of the 20th century, Jimmy Hoffa.
But I shouldn’t have. As it turns out, it was a bust. Despite a 96% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie was pretty good. It had some strong moments. In fact, I’d say it would have been a solid two-hour movie if it wasn’t stretched out to an insane 3.5 hours. What’s worse is that it’s easy to find around two hours that could have been cut without tainting the story that needed to be told. It wouldn’t have seemed rushed. It would have been better.
Instead, I sat through the whole thing. I’m no lightweight when it comes to long watches, either. I’ve binged shows for much longer than 3.5 hours. This should have been a walk in the park. I’ll explain why it wasn’t, but don’t worry, no spoilers ahead, as usual.
Let’s say the nice things first. The acting was, of course, special. With that much star-power and a supporting cast that was shockingly talented as well, it’s almost impossible for the portrayals to not shine through beautifully. Pesci was especially exceptional in his portrayal of mob boss Russell Bufalino. The craftsmanship and special effects necessary to make the old actors appear young for many scenes was flawless. De Niro’s strikingly pale blue eyes were mesmerizing, which was necessary for him to play the very Irish Frank Sheeran. As for Pacino’s portrayal of Hoffa, I haven’t seen enough footage of the Teamsters’ former president to know how accurate it was, but there were definitely mannerisms present that I haven’t seen from Pacino in the past.
Now, for the bad. I blame Scorsese for putting together an indulgence piece for himself. He’s earned it in his career; by no means am I suggesting that he hasn’t paid his dues to be allowed to make whatever movie pleases him. But this was just too much for my tastes. It was as if he tried to capture every magical moment from his career and highlight it in a magnum opus. He tried too hard. He put too much into it. He had an opportunity to make a fantastic movie but overindulged in squeezing too much into it.
This was tailor-made for Netflix. Even with this much talent, it would be challenging to make any 3.5 hour movie successful on the big screen. But for Netflix, he could have gone another hour before someone said he should try to split it at least in half. I’m glad they didn’t. There would have been even more gratuitous fluff added than we already got from this film.
The movie will be a success. It will win awards and the vast majority who see it will love it. There’s plenty to like about it. But it could have been drastically shortened without losing a thing. It’s overkill, which has become Hollywood’s standard operating procedure lately.