So this movie was made a few years after Goodfellas by a few guys who knew they had struck gold together and figured… let’s just make another movie, what the hell. Martin Scorcese and Nicholas Pileggi set the tone for a decade of amazing films with Goodfellas, so it seemed natural to grab the same stars, and just do it all again five years down the line.
Quote: God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal.
Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci, and Martin Scorcese had already made hits together like Raging Bull, and yes, notably, Goodfellas, so they figured… lets make another one… right? At this point Scorcese, Deniro and Pesci had really cranked out several great films together, striking gold for Pesci in particular with an Oscar (Goodfellas), so to team up again was effortless (and now I will stop talking about Goodfellas).
Casino is based on the true story of a couple of gents who grab Las Vegas by the shoulders, slam it up against a wall, and give it two swift kicks in the ribs after it’d slumped onto the ground.
Ace Rothstein (DeNiro) is the head of a large Las Vegas casino, knocking tourists dead on the tables and filling his pockets with a never ending tidal wave of money, power, and ultimately greed. For the most part I like Ace, and he, for me, is the hero of the story. He does some things that are a pretty scary at times, but after a few years of being directly connected to the Mob that backs his operation, he makes every effort to be legitimate and run a place that plays by the rules.
The real villain in this tale is his buddy: his old pal from back home, Nicky Santoro (Pesci). Nicky doesn’t have any qualms about what he does, and as put by Ace in the film… is very dedicated to his work. Nicky is a gangster, plain and simple. He wants your money, he wants to steal, he is going to hurt people and you better believe that he makes plenty of headaches for good ole Ace.
Together Ace, Nicky and all of their colleagues (the legitimate as well as the head busters) get to ride this train of wealth and stardom, controlling one of the most profitable scenarios anyone had ever been privileged to in this country. It is often thought of as a Mob movie, and it is to an extent, but in reality this film is about VEGAS, and the story behind the story.
So in a nutshell, we watch each of them in their proverbial rise to power in the 1970s and then their explosively delightful fall from glory in 1980s. We get to watch each important step take place, and focus in on some specifics from time to time as the story is told in sections, and in a bold move, is narrated entirely by the characters from top to bottom.
This film did something that hasn’t been done too often, at least not successfully. We are being told this story, and it’s meant to be a story. It starts with DeNiro narrating the story, and explaining that everything was so great, until they messed it all up. It leads you to believe he will be telling this story, but then in a surprise move (and right inside of the first five minutes no less) Pesci jumps in and narrates a few scenes as well. Later in the film a third narrative emerges, only for a few minutes, but still. Not everyday do you see something done like this successfully. It worked, and it worked well.
It’s rarely that I cover a film that so thoroughly remains flawless, so this list just gets to be something so fun: my favorites scenes.
THE LIST: Favorite parts
1. I just wanna get out of here.
DeNiro narrates a scene focused on the action taking place on the casino floor and specifically covers… umm, let’s call it “extensive security” that exists to protect the organization from being ripped off by cheats, yokels, and hustlers. They hone in on an excellent operation and show us in detail how they would handle the reprimanding of such a type of gambler. The two guys are using Morse Code and wires under their clothes to single each other in an effort to expose the weakness of a dealer, to make a few hundred thousand dollars.
Well, suffice it to say, they catch these bums and show us the true meaning of cheater’s justice. It’s stellar; don’t blink.
2. You made me pop your eye out of your head???
As explained, Nicky is the ying to Ace’s yang in Casino. A scene midway through the film is strategically placed to show us that Pesci’s character is now the TRUE boss of Las Vegas. We see a deplorable act of violence as Nicky and his gang of desperados torture the leader of a rival gang in an attempt to extract information about destroying a bar (and the people working inside of it) that belongs to one of the mid-west bosses who financially back the casino that Ace runs.
It’s really a fantastic scene and if you can stomach a short little glimpse, it establishes Pesci as the true villain in town and somebody definitely not to be &$%*ed with.
3. You only exist out here because of me.
This scene is just fantastic. DeNiro and Pesci had played comrades just beforehand, in Goodfellas (I know, I promised I wouldn’t mention it again.. sue me). To have them come out so quickly afterwards, in a film done by the same film maker, and with many of the same undertones, but with a completely different relationship (this time almost totally hostile) and to still have them totally bring it home… there is really only one word for it I suppose: TALENT. Two Academy award winners, both for best supporting actor and you know what… straight up, they just liked working together and thus… they crushed it. Delivery in full effect. Bravo.
Nicky, now head of organized crime in Las Vegas asks Ace to meet him at the usual offsite location, but this time, a couple of hundred yards down the road. Ace figures death is looming, and close to it, a huge altercation that ends anything but positively is looming in his immediate future. It’s one of the best arguments ever filmed.
Other great actors are loved and admired by millions for their ability to convey emotions in ways that make us really feel their performances as reality. Some really make a great career and change people lives by focusing on laughter, or sadness, or happiness. Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro are two of the best of all time at showing us true, real, unwavering ANGER. These fellows have the abilities to yell, scream, and use profanity to the point of it almost being art. I honestly feel like these guys may be angry while shooting the scenes and can’t turn it off for a minute or two after the CUT.
This scene shows Joe Pesci’s ability to be angry and scary maybe better than any other he ever filmed.
(end of THE LIST)
This post got longer a lot faster then I hoped it would. I didn’t even get to mention awesome roles by Sharon Stone, James Woods, Kevin Pollack, and several more. Just a great ride from start to finish.
This movie is only a small representation of a long long list of phenomenal filmmaking from Martin Scorcese. He has a way of finding amazing actors and using them over and over. The two examples that have been the most successful (and the most frequent for Scorcese were each the premier of their generations.
He used DeNiro in films for decades and made movies that sit on everyone’s top 50 films of all time lists. Years later, he would begin work with Leonardo DiCaprio, and thus far have made a half a dozen beautiful pieces of film together, notably Gangs of New York, The Departed, and Shutter Island. We will certainly see great films from DiCaprio without falter as long as keeps working with this director, who many think is the best of all time.