The Irishman: What it Means for DeNiro and Pacino’s Legacies

Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino: two names synonymous with acting excellence. Both have given incredible performances in some of the greatest films ever made.

For DeNiro, 76, he’s given legendary performances in films like GoodFellas, Taxi Driver, Casino, The Deer Hunter, and Raging Bull. Then there’s Pacino, 79, known for standout performances in classics like The Godfather, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Carlito’s Way, and Serpico.

They’ve even appeared together in The Godfather Part II 45 years ago (not in scenes together), Heat nearly 25 years ago, and let’s forget about Righteous Kill from over 10 years ago (yikes).

And out now, the two are together for the fourth time in director Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman. DeNiro plays Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman, while Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, the notorious Teamster boss. It sounds like a pairing for the ages: one of film’s greatest directors with two of its greatest actors. Or, depending on how you look at their last names, a fancy Italian hoagie.

Despite their storied careers and list of excellent films, both actors need The Irishman to remind audiences of their greatness.

You may ask, “But why? The actors are already accomplished with enough awards, money, and characters to cement their standings among the greatest actors to ever live.” But in recent years, their great movies feel like ages ago with a recent string of bombs.

Granted, every actor has their fair share of bad performances. Sometimes actors just do easy roles to make a quick buck and who can blame them when you see their paycheck?

There’s also times where the roles may not pan out as well as they look. Hey, I get it, we’re all human. Nobody’s perfect, yet DeNiro and Pacino’s recent choices in films have been abysmal.

For Pacino, he’s starred in a lot of movies that were average or forgettable. Since his last great role in 2002’s Insomnia, he’s starred in movies like 2005’s Two for the Money, 2007’s 88 Minutes, 2011’s The Son of  No One, 2014’s The Humbling and Mangelhorn, and 2017’s Hangman. Most notably, Tim Robey of The Telegraph called Pacino’s role in 2016’s Misconduct the worst film Pacino has ever made.

Oh, and who could forget his appearance in Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill, where he performed a musical number in Dunkin’ Donuts about a new drink called a “Dunkaccino.” God, how the mighty have fallen.

On the bright side, Pacino’s had a couple good films like 2015’s Danny Collins and 2018’s Paterno, but overall there are not quite the same standards he had for great roles.

While Pacino has flown mostly under the radar with a mix of duds and average films, DeNiro has taken a heavy load of bombs. Now he’s had a few decent ones like an Oscar-nominated role in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, and fine performances in 2012’s Being Flynn and 2017’s The Wizard of Lies, but unfortunately the bad outweighs the good.

DeNiro’s poor choices include 2016’s The Comedian, 2015’s Heist and The Intern, 2013’s Killing Season and The Big Wedding, 2011’s Killer Elite, and 2010’s Little Fockers. Those were all duds, with some average movies in between like 2016’s Hands of Stone and  2013’s The Family. Mind you, this is only since 2010.

However, DeNiro’s all-time-low came with 2016’s Dirty Grandpa, where the actor degraded himself not only to work with Zac Efron, but where he obnoxiously partied, obscenely cursed, and yes, pleasured himself to adult movies.

You have to wonder, why have the two been in such stinkers recently? Well, there’s no clear answer.

When it comes to their poorly received films, they don’t give interviews on them. If they do, the interviewer strays away from asking  questions on why the actor chose such a role.

For DeNiro, in interviews with Cinemablend for Little Fockers and Fandango for The Big Wedding, he simply said it was just fun to work. However, when DeNiro misinterpreted Radio Times’ Emma Brocke’s question on The Intern that inferred he was on “autopilot” on set, DeNiro stormed out. Then again, up until recently, DeNiro is known for being closed off during interviews.

On the other hand, Pacino is more open when it comes to interviews with his average movies. In an interview with The Hot Blog’s David Poland for The Humbling, Pacino mentioned that when it comes to movies the actor can’t really grasp, it can be a good thing.

Pacino said, “It’s a good time for you because that’s when you learn the craft because you have to learn how to adjust for a role that doesn’t come easy to you. I love the work and the challenge of it.”

There are a number of reasons we can speculate on why the two have taken such roles recently. It could be because they aren’t big box office draws anymore, the money’s there for duds, or they just want to play different roles other than the same old stuff they’ve been doing for 50 years.

But as a huge fan of them, it’s been an endurance test. I always go out of my way to see their films in the past 10 years or so, but I’ve been left more disappointed than satisfied. It’s a shame too, considering both still got it. Unfortunately, their talents have been wasted recently.

However, after all this time, I still have hope in their next movie.

While there’s no questioning the greatness of DeNiro and Pacino, it would be nice for The Irishman to remind those who have stuck with the actors through the dirt in recent years that they still got it. And even through the duds, they’ve always had it.

I mean, it can’t be worse than Dirty Grandpa or Jack and Jill, right?