This post contains spoilers for The Irishman and discusses specific plot points in detail.
In addition to portraying Jimmy Hoffa as a lover of ice cream and a stickler for punctuality, Martin Scorsese's historical epic The Irishman paints the controversial labor leader as a man undone by hubris. As played by Al Pacino, roaring in full "hoo-ah" mode for much of the film's 209-minute runtime, the one-time Teamsters boss repeatedly tempts fate as the threats against his life grow more urgent and the odds of his survival dwindle. Blinded by pride, Hoffa believes no one would dare touch him. Then he gets two bullets behind the ear courtesy of his long-time friend Frank Sheeran, the gruff mob enforcer played by a digitally de-aged Robert De Niro.
It's a violent act that's filmed with a startling lack of flash: Hoffa walks up the steps to a house, opens the door, scans the empty premises with a couple quick glances, turns to leave, and falls dead to the floor. After committing the crime, Sheeran looks towards the kitchen, pulls Hoffa's body away from the door, plants a gun on him, straightens his shirt, and hurries out the door. One of the most mythologized, theorized, and obsessed over unsolved murders of the 20th century is staged in about 30 seconds. No big speeches; no slow motion. Just a cold betrayal carried out in broad daylight. But did it really go down like that? What about Hoffa's body getting buried in the Giants stadium? Or dumped in a Florida swamp?
The story of The Irishman, which Robert De Niro has been circling for over a decade, was adapted from the nonfiction bestseller I Heard You Paint Houses by attorney-turned-writer Charles Brandt, who published the confessional tale a mere six months after the real-life Sheeran's death in 2003. (Scorsese appears to prefer the more declarative title, flashing it across the screen twice in the film.) On the book's cover, Brandt promises to reveal the truth about "The Biggest Hit in Mob History," and the bodies pile up across the book's 400 pages, including the New York slaying of gangster "Crazy" Joe Gallo, another killing dramatized in the film. As anyone who streamed The Irishman over Thanksgiving or caught it in theaters last month can attest, Sheeran lived a wild, Forrest Gump-like life perfectly suited for the star-studded Hollywood treatment.