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    Frank Sheeran 

Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sheeran.jpg
"Sooner or later, everybody put here has a date when he's going to go. That's just the way it is."

"When I was young, I thought house painters painted houses. What did I know? I was a working guy, a business agent for Teamster Local 107 out of South Philly. One of a thousand working stiffs, until I wasn’t no more. And then I started painting houses myself."

Portrayed By: Robert de Niro

The titular protagonist, who works as a contract killer for the mob. He's also Jimmy Hoffa's assassin.


  • Affably Evil: Even though he kills people for a living, Frank is genial enough to get along with just about anybody.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The last half-hour of the film treats his fate with solemnity and sympathy.
  • Angrish: While confronting a guy who tried lying his way out of paying a debt:
    "You wanna get cute with me? All that bullshit about your mother and sick and all that dying."
  • The Atoner: Murdering Hoffa haunts him for the rest of his life.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Frank deeply admires Hoffa and is visibly excited to make his acquaintance, eventually becoming one of his closest friends. Unfortunately, their relationship is exactly why Frank is chosen to whack him.
  • Been There, Shaped History: At least three examples: transporting guns for the Bay of Pigs Invasion; assassinating Joe Gallo; assassinating Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Berserk Button: Beats the shit out of a shopkeeper for pushing his daughter.
  • The Big Guy: His towering height is mainly why he works as a hitman and an enforcer.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Hoffa mistakenly trusts Frank with his life.
  • Boom, Headshot!/Double Tap: His modus operandi as an assassin.
  • Commonality Connection: He bonds with Russell, an Italian-American, over their fluency in Italian and the fact that Russell was born in Catania, where Frank served.note 
  • Consummate Professional: He never lets personal matters affect his job, as tragically demonstrated when he kills Jimmy.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of professional criminals and killers, showing just how miserable and pitiful a man like this would become if they reached old age.
  • The Driver: For Russell. One of his earlier jobs was also as a truck driver.
  • Dying Alone: By the end of his life, most of Frank's mob friends have died of old age, disease or violence, his wife passes away, and his daughters want nothing to do with him. He's so alone that he has to arrange his own impending funeral.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He seems very angry with Tony Pro's threat to Hoffa. He even admits that if it wasn't for the mob, he would have killed him.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Knowing that his days are numbered, and despite having no one to do it for him, he sets up his own funeral arrangements, like buying a coffin, and calmly awaits his death.
  • Fate Worse than Death: With all of his friends dead and his family estranged from him, Frank is left alone in a nursing home to ruminate over his guilt and impending death.
  • Going Native: During WWII, he becomes acquainted with Italian customs after serving in Italy, like becoming fluent in Sicilian and developing a predilection for red wine. It's this that ingratiates him with the Mafia, even though he has no Italian heritage.
  • Guns Akimbo: How he dispatches of Joe Gallo.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Downplayed in the film, but it's still there. This trait is more evident in the memoir, demonstrated by him assaulting his boss at a meatpacking job and also by him attacking the referee during a boxing match with a kangaroo.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Russell Bufalino.
  • The Irish Mob: He's not technically affiliated with the Irish Mob in any capacity, but being a Mafia associate with Irish heritage qualifies him for this trope.
  • Ironic Echo: Living alone at the retirement community, he has by now borrowed Jimmy's habit of leaving the door slightly open at night.
  • Kick the Dog: While it's understandable that he'd be angry at the grocer who shoved his daughter, practically pulverizing his hand with his foot was pure sadism on Frank's part.
  • Mouth of Sauron: He's often speaking for Russell or relaying messages for him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Unlike most of his murders, Frank is visibly distraught after killing Hoffa.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Subverted; He stumbles a little with the Mafia's social mores, and he gets easily fooled and scammed on a few occasions, almost getting himself killed in the process. However, he quickly learns from his mistakes and adapts to the mob life.
  • The Narrator: Of the film.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: For shoving his daughter, he throws a shopkeeper out on the street and proceeds to crush his hand with his foot.
  • Old Soldier: He's still carrying out hits in the late 70s despite pushing sixty.
  • Only Sane Man: Frank takes it upon himself to mediate conflict or be a voice of reason during petty disputes.
  • Papa Wolf: Deconstructed; when he assaults a shopkeeper for shoving his daughter, he winds up traumatizing her. This plays a role in her estrangement from him.
  • Punchclock Villain: There's nothing to indicate that Frank particularly enjoys killing people, he just sees it as a necessary part of his job. Most of his kills are on orders from Russell, and he rarely harbors any personal malice towards the people that he kills (in fact, he was a dear and close friend to Jimmy Hoffa).
  • The Quiet One: A man of few words who speaks in a low mumble. He's fairly laconic even as the narrator.
  • The Sociopath: Subverted; As a hitman, he has little problem killing people, but killing Hoffa has him racked with guilt.
  • Start of Darkness: It was during WWII that Frank developed a coldness to taking lives; he would force POWs to build their own graves before killing them on the spot.
  • The Stoic: Lampshaded by Jimmy, who points out that it's impossible to tell what he's thinking by looking at him.
  • Verbal Tic: Has a slight stutter.
  • Villain Protagonist: He's a hitman for the mob and the film's protagonist.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Leaves his wife for another woman not long after he affiliates himself with the mob.
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    Jimmy Hoffa 

Jimmy Hoffa

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/hoffa.jpg
"Well, glad to meet you too, even if it’s over the phone. I heard you paint houses."

"Big business and the government are trying to sow the seeds of dissent among our ranks, at a time when we need unity! We need solidarity!"

Portrayed by: Al Pacino

The mob-affiliated President of the Teamsters. After being sent to prison, his relationship with the Mafia gradually deteriorates as he attempts to regain control over the Teamsters, butting heads with them in the process, all of which ultimately leads to his assassination.


  • A Lighter Shade of Black: While he is heavily corrupt and in cahoots with the mob (knowing full well what their methods are), he is still dedicated to his union brothers and to ensuring better treatment for the working class. Furthermore, his lighter character is affirmed by the bond he shares with Peggy, in contrast to her wariness around her own father and his gangster friends.
  • Berserk Button: Being late to a meeting and insulting his ego are surefire ways to piss him off. Threatening his grand-daughter will catch you a beating.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: His last words were, "C'mon Frank, let's get out of here," before Frank shoots him in the head.
  • Boom, Headshot!: His manner of death is two shots to the back of his head.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He doesn't drink, loves ice cream, and always goes to bed with the door slightly open. He's also a highly effective leader of the Teamsters.
  • Character Tic: Always goes to bed with the door slightly ajar.
  • The Charmer: He is effortlessly endearing and skilled at winning people over (when he wants to be, at least).
  • Consummate Professional: He has very high standards for professionalism. Subverted in that his contempt for people who don't meet them creates unnecessary conflict.
  • Control Freak: He goes to absolutely suicidal lengths to retake the Teamsters.
  • Cool Old Guy: In spite of his reputation, his passionate and endearing nature earns him a lot of admirers, ranging all the way towards children.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "I heard you paint houses."
  • Deal with the Devil: Hoffa got where he is in large part due to his dealings with the mob, which backfires on him later in life.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: He's stunningly naive about what the mafia can do to him, and he pays dearly for it.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Was whacked by his close friend, Frank Sheeran.
  • Fatal Flaw; Pride: The reason why he can't relinquish control of the Teamsters is simply because it's his union. Even though he's pissed off a lot of people trying to get it back, he absolutely will not back down, no matter how serious their threats become. In the end, the mob has no choice but to put him down.
  • Friend to All Children: He bonds with Peggy, Frank's daughter, which continues into her adulthood as a platonic Intergenerational Friendship. This is particularly striking given the distance between her and her own father.
  • Happily Married: He and his wife are very close.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: He develops a very strong friendship with Frank Sheeran. Subverted by the fact that it isn't strong enough to stop Frank from killing him under orders from the mob, despite Jimmy assuming otherwise.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: His Control Freak tendacies land him in prison when he commits witness tampering to acquit himself of a minor charge. His later conviction of actual fraud would compound his sentence.
  • Jerkass: Zig-Zagged. Even though he isn't as nefarious as the mob and is fairly charismatic, Hoffa also has an unpleasently vindictive side to him. For example, he is incredibly condescending towards Tony Pro when he asks him for help, insulting him and refusing to get Pro his pension back. Furthermore, while his anger towards some of his incompetence is justified, he takes it out on otherwise innocent employees, inadvertently insulting Frank for instance (which he quickly apologizes for). Possibly the height of his dickish behavior was when he forced a flag to remain at full staff over one of his union headquarters in the wake of JFK's assassination, out of spite to the Kennedy's. In any case, Frank implies that the stress of Bobby Kennedy's relentless investigations and the ensuing trial proceedings caused him to take a level in jerkass.
  • The Napoleon: Shorter than most characters, he remains a tremendous force of personality.
  • Never Found the Body: Famously so. According to Frank, his corpse was simply incinerated in a nearby Crematorium.
  • No Indoor Voice: Mostly when he's giving speeches of course, but he can be loud while off the podium as well.
  • Parental Substitute: To Chuckie O'Brien, whom he raised.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Despite working closely with the Mafia, Hoffa is shown to be prejudiced against Italians; among other remarks, he calls Tony Pro a "motherfucking wop cocksucker." To be fair, it seems to be not genuine prejudice, but as a way to piss off Tony Pro. Also, his "you people" comment is more likely referring to mobsters rather than Italians in general.
  • Retired Badass: He's been heavily involved with Unions since his youth, and the frequent clashes he and his strikes had with the police are all representative of his toughness. By the events of the film, he's still capable of beating up guys much younger than he.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: He makes it clear that he has no interest in being paid off to run the Union behind the scenes, but with simply getting back what's his by right.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: "Florida, Timbuktu, I wear a suit. For a meeting." He expects the same out of anyone else.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: He has a particular fondness for "cocksucker."
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Invoked while berating his employees for bringing heat on him:
    "I am sitting in a room full of fucking idiots."
  • The Teetotaler: He doesn't drink, and dislikes it when people around him drink.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: He loves ice cream.
  • You Are What You Hate: As much as Jimmy acts like his disdain of Tony Pro stems from a place of ethics (though he doesn't seem to mind associating with a known murderer like Frank Sheeran), it's heavily implied that the real reason that Jimmy hates Pro is that he views the younger man as a twisted version of himself. This is best exemplified in their scenes together where Jimmy condescendingly talks down to Tony like a disappointed father who's lecturing his son.
    Jimmy (talking about Pro): He's out of control! What are you gonna do with a person like this?! He's got a hand in everybody's pocket, shaking down the trucking companies. Can you imagine that? Threatening people! I mean, you threaten people once in a while...Okay, I understand. But all the time?!

    Russell Bufalino 

Russell Bufalino

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bufalino.jpg
"Either way, he’s going."

"When I ask somebody to take care of something for me, I expect them to take care of it themselves. I don’t need two roads coming back to me."

Portrayed by: Joe Pesci

The don of the Bufalino crime family; he takes Frank under his wing and brings him into the mob.


  • Affably Evil: Russell's polite, friendly, and will go out of his way to help strangers with things like car trouble. He's also had a lot of people killed.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Near the end of the movie, Russell is nothing but a pitiful shadow of what he once was: he has aged in jail, has deteriorated considerably to the point of not having teeth, and has been reduced to The Atoner.
  • All for Nothing: In spite of all his criminal dealings and all of the murders he's ordered, including those he called friends, he still ends up a feeble old man in prison full of regrets.
  • The Atoner: He's evidently remorseful for his actions by the time he's in prison, regularly attending church just before he dies.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: He's a soft-spoken man who never raises his voice, but don't let that fool you: there's a quiet menace to him that one should never cross.
  • Character Tic: Is always asleep whenever Frank drives him.
  • Commonality Connection: He bonds with Frank, an Irish-American, over their fluency in Italian and the fact that Frank served in Catania, Russell's birthplace.note 
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Tell Jimmy, 'it is what it is.'"
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: He doesn't smoke or allow anyone else to with him in a car, which is treated as highly unusual, given the time period.note 
  • The Don: Of the Scranton mob.
  • Double Speak: He's rarely direct in his instructions, yet they remain plain to see.
  • Expy: He has a lot in common with Vito Corleone. Like The Godfather, Russell is a ruthless, yet polite, friendly mob boss who's very loyal to the protagonist.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: He rediscovers his Catholic faith while in prison.
  • Henpecked Husband: Downplayed; they have a fairly equal relationship, but while on a drive, his wife demands to smoke despite the fact that he quit smoking, leaving him no choice but to pull over and wait.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Solidified this with Frank after saving his life.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Frank, who's seventeen years younger than Russell.
  • Ironic Echo: Much like an earlier meeting with Frank, he struggles to eat bread with him while in prison. However, he's so old that his teeth are too weak to eat the bread without having to soak it in grape juice.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Unable to have children of his own, he tries to connect with Frank's daughter, with little success.
  • Like a Son to Me: He refers to Frank as his kid to him, even though they first met when Frank was already in his 30s.
  • The Mentor: He guides Frank throughout his life in the mob.
  • Mister Big: Applies to both him and his crime family. Physically diminutive and running a pretty inconsequential organization, he nevertheless holds a lot of sway over the rest of the mob.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In prison with Frank, he voices regret over his role in Hoffa's assassination.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: His first meeting with Frank consists of him assisting Frank with engine trouble.
  • Noodle Incident: One scene shows him returning home with blood on his shirt. No explanation is given, and his wife simply offers to wash it.
  • ...Or So I Heard: "Listen, some people, not me... think you might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation."
  • Pragmatic Villainy: A very shrewd and calculating mafioso who won't sanction a hit unless he absolutely has to.
  • Precision F-Strike: Upon hearing Frank's combat experience, he delivers a Sicilian version of this trope:
    "Mincia"
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He disparagingly refers to Allen Dorfman as a "pain-in-the-ass fucking jew."
  • The Quiet One: He was known as "The Quiet Don."
  • Sophisticated as Hell: He's wise and well-spoken, but is also somewhat profane.
  • Tranquil Fury: He shows a lot of restraint after Joe Gallo insults him.
  • Wham Line: "If they can wack a President, they can wack a president of the Union."

Supporting Characters

    Peggy Sheeran 

Peggy Sheeran

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/peggy_sheeran.png

"Why haven't you called Jo?"

Portrayed by: Anna Paquin

Frank's daughter. She is wary of her father and his friends, but idolizes Hoffa.


  • Armor-Piercing Question: Her page quote. For context, it occurs just after the family hears of Hoffa's disappearance, which Frank had a direct role in. It turns out to be the last thing she ever says to her father.
  • Detect Evil: Is standoffish around her father and Russell, both of whom are cold-blooded killers. Her strong friendship with Hoffa serves as a striking contrast.
  • Hero-Worshipper: She greatly admires Hoffa not just for being her friend, but also because she genuinely believes in what he's accomplished as a union president. Deconstructed due to the fact he's also a crook and in bed with the mob.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: A platonic one with the much-older Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Meaningful Look: While asking him why he hasn't called Jo, she gives a horrified look to her father once she realizes that he had something to do with Hoffa's disappearance.
  • Morality Pet: For Frank. Ultimately subverted, since she estranges herself from him even though he never mistreated her, simply because she can't stand to associate with a man like him any longer.
  • Parental Issues: Her father's all but explicit occupation as a thug and hitman bother her very much. When she figures out that he killed Hoffa, she cuts him off completely.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Befriends Hoffa as a child, and remains friends with him as an adult.
  • The Quiet One: She doesn't speak much around people, except when it comes to Hoffa.
  • Silent Treatment: Gives her own father this for the last three decades of his life.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: She has very few lines and doesn't do much in the film, but she plays a pivotal role in the emotional weight of the third act.
  • Stunned Silence: Witnessing her father beating the grocery store owner for shoving her played a big role into why she fears her father.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: As a child, she's surprisingly smart and very perceptive of other people

    Tony Provenzano 

"Tony Pro" Provenzano

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tony_pro.jpg
"Don't forget, it was 'you people' that got you where you are."

"What do you mean 'you people'?"

Portrayed by: Stephen Graham

A brutal New Jersey capo in the Genovese family and the president for Teamsters Local 560. He and Hoffa form a fierce rivalry during the second act of the film, after Hoffa refuses to help get him his Pension Fund back after going to jail, and insulting him.


  • Ax-Crazy: Part of Hoffa's problem with him is his Hair-Trigger Temper and tendency for violence despite being a member of the Union. He once had a Teamsters brother killed and completely mutilated simply for running against him as Local 560 President. He also threatened to mutilate Jimmy Hoffa's granddaughter.
  • Berserk Button: Don't say "you people" when addressing him, as Hoffa found out the hard way.
  • Big Bad: The main antagonist of the whole movie. He's Jimmy Hoffa's main rival and the one who orchestrated the conflict with him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: He was wrong to call him a wop, but threatening Hoffa's granddaughter over that is worse.
  • Evil Is Petty: He really takes being called "you people" very personally. It's the main thing for him driving his feud with Hoffa.
  • Expy: In many ways, Tony Pro is a more depraved version of Tommy DeVito from GoodFellas. The cast even joked about this, mentioning that Tony Pro is the kind of character one would expect to be played by Joe Pesci.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Even though he's really cheery and sociable around people he likes, it doesn't take a whole lot for him to drop the facade.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He is right that Hoffa got to where he is because of the Mob's help, and he is entitled to his Pension Fund share (not legally, but Hoffa is still a criminal too). Hoffa vehemently denies this. Nevertheless, his reaction was out of line.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: After Hoffa's death, Tony Pro was sentenced in the late 70s to life in prison on an unrelated murder charge, where he died in 1988. So, while he was ultimately imprisoned, he was never specifically punished for his role in Hoffa's death... but he died alone anyway.
  • The Napoleon: He's short and violent.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Assaults Hoffa during their prison meeting after the "you people" crack.
  • The Rival: To Hoffa.
  • The Sociopath: Tony Pro is violent, sadistic, homicidal and ruthless even by the American Mafia's standards. Furthermore, like many self-centered sociopaths, he is a superficial charmer and likes to cultivate good publicity.
  • Tranquil Fury: He's visibly fuming as Hoffa dresses him down during their Miami meeting, keeping his cool until Hoffa calls him a wop.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: He's a psychotic killer, yet he's very popular with his Local.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's actually a pretty good public speaker, as demonstrated when he is introduced.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After getting called a wop, he threatens to rip Hoffa's granddaughter's guts out and mail them to him.
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    Angelo Bruno 

Angelo Bruno

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_irishman_harvey_keitel.jpg

"You don't know how good a friend you got."

Portrayed by: Harvey Keitel

The don of the Bruno-Scarfo crime family, based in Philadelphia. As a Philly resident, Frank works for his family.


  • Brutal Honesty: He makes it very clear to Frank that he had no problem letting the Jewish mob kill him for blowing up their laundromat before Russell hadn't intervened.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Assures Frank that he won't have to pay Whispers DiTullio back, since he "won't need it."
  • The Don: Of the Philadelphia mob. He stands out as one of the more prototypical examples of this trope in the film.
  • Killed Offscreen: When he's introduced, a caption reveals that he was shot to death on March 21, 1980. This is never shown.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: His sense of style helps with him image.
  • One-Scene Wonder: He has only one scene of any significance, but it's one of the more important scenes in the story.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Known as "the Gentle Don," Bruno was known for his fairness and cool head. He's willing to spare Frank after Russell vouches for him, where most other dons would have thrown him to the wolves.
  • Who's on First?: On the topic of the laundromat:
    Bruno: Somebody else got an interest in that. You know who?
    Frank: Who?
    Bruno: I do.
    Frank: Who?
    Bruno: No, I do. I own the other part, not "I know somebody who owns the other part."

    Skinny Razor 

"Skinny Razor"

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/skinny_razor.jpg

Portrayed by: Bobby Cannavale

A high-ranking capo in the Philadelphia mob. He employs Frank in a meat-trucking operation, his first task for the Mafia.


    Joe Gallo 

"Crazy Joe" Gallo

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/joe_gallo.jpg

Portrayed by: Sebastian Maniscalco

Famed loose-cannon mobster from the Colombo crime family. Frank assassinates him at Umberto's in one of the most high-profile assassinations in mafia history.


  • Ax-Crazy: Gallo had schizophrenia, and was known as a ruthless and violent criminal.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Is flippant with Russell Bufalino and mocks him for supporting the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League. It's implied that this was the final straw behind his death.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Unlike most mobsters, he has no problem working with Hispanics and African-Americans, much to the chagrin of the rest of the mob.
  • The Starscream: He tried to usurp power by having Joe Colombo, his boss, assassinated. He survived, but was left in a coma and effectively removed from power.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: Frank kills by unloading two guns on him.
  • Wicked Cultured: While in prison, he read a lot and became well-versed regarding Kafka and Tolstoy.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Is friends with a lot of celebrities, like Don Rickles, and leads a comfortable public lifestyle.

    Tony Salerno 

"Fat Tony" Salerno

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tony_salerno.jpg

Portrayed by: Domenick Lombardozzi

The Underboss of the Genovese crime family. He disapproves of Hoffa's conduct after prison, and is ultimately the one who ordered the hit.


  • Cigar Chomper: Almost never seen without one.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While he doesn't appear until more than midway through the movie, he holds a lot of power and ends up ordering Jimmy Hoffa's assassination.
  • Large and in Charge: He's not the don of the family, but is the highest-ranking member of the Genovese family whom Frank and Russell are shown interacting with. And yes, he is fat.
  • Mouth of Sauron: He apparently speaks for all of the "higher ups," including his own boss, Philip Lombardo.
  • Undignified Death: He developed prostate cancer and Type 2 Diabetes in prison, giving him urinary problems before his death.

    Bill Bufalino 

Bill Bufalino

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bill_bufalino.png

Portrayed by: Ray Romano

A mob attorney who defends both Frank and Jimmy.


  • Amoral Attorney: Is an attorney for the mob. He tells Frank he doesn't care if he's actually guilty of skimming a trucking operation, so long as he can defend him. He actually nudges Frank to admit it to him in private.
  • Nepotism: He's gotten pretty far ahead as a mob lawyer, likely due to him being Russell's cousin.note 

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