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The One Thing You Never Do To Al Pacino's Character In The Irishman

The arrival of any new Martin Scorsese film comes with a certain amount of fanfare. Given the legendary filmmaker's resume alone (boasting iconic flicks like Taxi DriverRaging Bull, and Goodfellas, among many others), it's not hard to understand why. That's doubly true of any Scorsese film starring Robert De Niro, as the duo remain one of the greatest actor/director combos in cinema history. As it is, their collaboration on Netflix's gangster drama The Irishman ensured the film would earn a lion's share of expectation. 

As Scorsese added the talents of Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Harvey Keitel, and more to The Irishman's cast, those expectations were sky high ahead of the film's Netflix premiere. That premiere came in November of 2019, with Scorsese and company more than delivering the goods via a brutal, surprisingly introspective gangland masterpiece with an epic narrative ambition matched only by its truly epic runtime.

That narrative is primarily focused on De Niro's real-life character Frank Sheeran, who spent decades doing dirty deeds for the Buffalino crime family and serving as the right hand man to former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. Even months after its release, critics continue to heap praise on the film for its harrowing depiction of mob life — with particular accolades going to its cast for their crackling work as largely unsavory gangster-types.

Al Pacino's grandstanding work as the enigmatic and wildly charismatic Jimmy Hoffa continues to be singled out as one of The Irishman's finest elements, with many pointing to a particularly pivotal scene as a fresh highlight for his storied career. That scene found Pacino's Hoffa utterly losing his cool after one of his mobster buddies showed up for a meeting more than ten minutes late. Apparently, that's the one thing you never do to Jimmy Hoffa.   

Punctuality was apparently a very big deal for Jimmy Hoffa

If you've seen The Irishman, you know the exact scene we're talking about, as it remains one of the most memorable and oddly hilarious moments of the entire film. In case you haven't yet dug in and experienced Martin Scorsese's latest masterwork for yourself, you might need a little bit of context, because there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than just Hoffa getting peeved at being made to wait.

The meeting in question was set with the infamously hot-headed Genovese crime family Capo Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano (played with visceral ego by Stephen Graham). That fact is important, as the last meeting between the two men earlier in The Irishmman resulted in a heated, violent encounter while they were serving a prison term together. That encounter also saw Hoffa lob what could easily be perceived as an ethnic slur at Provenzano just before the pair came to blows. To complicate matters more, Hoffa has called the meeting to ask a huge favor from his old foe.

As you might expect, the followup meeting is fraught with tension before the men are even in the same room. The scene opens with Hoffa sitting quietly alongside De Niro's Frank in an empty restaurant. Provenzano is already ten minutes late, and Hoffa is itching to leave, noting that anyone who shows up to a meeting more than ten minutes late isn't just late, but making a point — possibly one of outright insult. And when Provenzano shows up moments later, the already incensed Hoffa wastes no time addressing at the lack of respect shown in the underboss' tardiness, much to the chagrin of everyone else involved.

One should also dress for the occasion when meeting Jimmy Hoffa

Things progress from there about the way you'd expect when a pair of hot-blooded gangster types get into a pissing match from there. And yes, the ensuing fisticuffs seemed inevitable given the characters' complicated past alone; even more so coupled with a clear show of disrespect from Provenzano to a man he certainly knows holds specific opinions about punctuality.

To add injury to what Hoffa clearly views as insult, the cocksure Provenzano actually shows up for the fateful meeting (which takes place in Florida) in full beachwear, sporting shorts and a loose-fitting shirt to boot. And if you think punctuality is a big deal for Jimmy Hoffa, his ideas about dressing for the occasion are just as stringent, with the man himself suffering the Florida heat in a full suit for the big meet. Not surprisingly, Tony Pro's attire is the first thing Pacino's Hoffa calls out, noting he himself would wear a suit to a meeting "anywhere — Florida, Timbuktu. I dress in a suit."

By the time Hoffa starts digging about punctuality, there's little hope for an amiable meeting. And even for those who deem punctuality important above all, it's really hard to stay on Hoffa's side as he continues to provoke Provenzano — particularly when he starts hurling ethnic slurs again.

As for Pacino's work in the scene, the actor largely underplays the intensity (a rarity in his late-career oeuvre), and lets the vitriol simmer until just the right moment. When he lets it boil over, well, the actor's scene-chewing work is as ripe with vintage Pacino ferocity as it is modern Pacino grandstanding, which easily ranks his fiery work in The Irishman among the finest of his career.