Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yeah, I know. This was supposed to be Mafia March, right? Better late than never.

"A Half-a one-a these! A HAAAALF!"
Casino, 1995, directed by Martin Scorcese.
Written by Nicholas Pileggi.
starring: Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone.

"Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobsters." (imdb).

Jeez, that was a pretty lackluster description! If you can believe it, this was the first thing of Marty's I saw, and back then, I thought it was amazing. I still think it's worth watching, but knowing what I know now, I can safely say it's hardly the best of his films. This time I found it kind of over-long, bloated, and drowning in pop music. And Sharon Stone was decent, I guess, (nominated for Best Actress Oscar for this) but this time around I just kept envisioning KATE GOSSELIN the whole time, especially with that chopped 80s mop . . . thanks, reality TV. It was kind of sickening.

Also, there wasn't much *fun* in this film, it was pretty much all fights and not-nice people. What Goodfellas or The Sopranos (on deck tonight and tomorrow) did well, this film tanked at---and that's getting us to like the crew. Sam Rothstein (DeNiro) was good at his job and I kind of liked his constant pointing, arm gestures, and smoking, and clearly I'd still hit that a million times, but other than that he was kind of stuffy. Ginger (Stone) had a great wardrobe but was just not likable, at all. So that basically leaves Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and Lester Diamond (JAMES WOODS!). Yes, I just said that James Woods was one of the best things about this film; he's a douche, but a well-done douche, and good for a few laughs at least. I think the best way to describe this film is a good (albeit long) introduction to Scorcese. If you like this, you'll *love* his other stuff. The clip below uses what I thought was the best song of the film, and slow-motions the in-the-end-they-all-get-whacked bit. And just to be clear, the cornfield scene shown is the G-rated version, compared to the actual film experience, length, sound of bats, etc. So if you do choose to see it, be aware. And don't let kids see this, either.


Donald said...

I think I liked this one more than you did. Along with Goodfellas, this is one of my favorite Scorsese films. I can't disagree with any of your criticisms, however. There really weren't any likable characters, nor was there any real story arc that made you care about what was happening.

But I still thought it was an incredibly inventive, entertaining movie. Scorsese's direction was the real star, and maybe the only reason to watch it.

Anna said...

I do like it. there are some really good scenes, and some of the music he used really resonates. and even though I really can't stand her, that scene where he first sees ginger on the monitor---he's just standing there staring at her, that was killer.

i saw this even before I saw Godfather, and so I didn't really get that the whacking everyone in the end was not just a bad ass way to end it but something that was a common theme in the genre . . . i was 19 i think and i probably rewound that House of Rising Sun scene 4 times.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

James Woods is the best douche in the history of cinema douches. I love him. I kind of remember him just disappearing from this film, though.

I watched a little bit of Casino on television a few months back, and was reminded how painful certain parts are to watch. I mean, when Joe Pesci's character gets whacked? That's insane and just terrible.

Anna said...

it was. the only time I've ever felt like that before was in the chainsaw scene in the pacino Scarface, and this was after my parents absolutely *forbade* me from watching it, of course, what did i do as soon as I got the chance but go and get it secretly---i felt the same way but almost worse in Casino because Nicky Santoro and his brother were characters I had just spend over 2 hours watching instead of whoever the random hood is in Scarface whose face gets sawed off. . . just this really scared, disturbing feeling. and the way they make him WATCH while they do Dominic with the bats? jeez.

For me that scene was powerful because 1. it was so incredibly violent and harsh, but 2. that music together with all the others getting killed really just drove back the point that these guys, the mob from back home, were all sitting in their wheelchairs ON OXYGEN for Christ's sake, and *still* they got the job done; why would you fuck with guys like that? i love the "don't fuck with me" theme.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Isn't Pesci's character still alive, even, when they start shoveling dirt on top of him? Man...that's fucked up.

I guess one of the reasons I like Martin Scorsese so much is that he can show you something that god-awful and it doesn't feel indulgent, the way it might if another director did it.