The Netflix Files: March 1, 2011

Here at The Netflix Files, we work to find the hidden gems of Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature, the films and TV series that have gone largely unnoticed by the streaming community. Previously we have covered such topics as subversive street art and mock blaxploitation. It’s been kind of a strange ride.

“There are three ways of doing things around here. The right way, the wrong way, and the way that I do it.”
– Ace Rothstein, Casino

“@#$% me? @#$% me? You @#$%^&*@#$%^.”
– Nicky Santoro, same film

Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) cemented him as the quintessential director of the gangster film. Adapted to the screen by Nicholas Pileggi, the true story of Brooklyn mobster Henry Hill garnered six Academy Award nominations and has since been lauded as one of the best movies of all time.

In 1995, Scorsese and Pileggi decided to bring the act to Vegas, and Casino was born.

The film, also based to a large extent on true events, depicts the struggles of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, who is helplessly immersed in the unfathomable corruption of the Las Vegas gambling scene. As manager of the fictional Tangiers casino, Rothstein is continually pitted against the mafia, the U.S. government, and his insane ex-prostitute wife Ginger.

Robert De Niro, Goodfellas‘ Jimmy Conway, plays Rothstein to perfection — a competent, tough-as-nails businessman chafing under pressure in a noticeably colorful, ever-changing array of Italian dress suits. Sharon Stone is the irredeemable Ginger, a money-hungry drug addict spiraling loudly out of control. She’s also one of the worst mothers in cinematic history, going so far as to tie her child to twin bedposts rather than hire a babysitter.  

But the true star of the film is Joe Pesci. In Goodfellas, he won an Oscar for his performance as the bad-tempered, shockingly violent Tommy DeVito. His Casino counterpart, Nicky Santoro, is nearly identical. The only difference is whereas Tommy never did become a “made man,” Santoro exerts tremendous power and influence. Which makes him all the more terrifying. (Warning: Hyperlink not for the weak of stomach.) Pesci’s character crafts his own uncompromising authority in the Nevada desert; notably, however, he has a soft spot for old friend Rothstein. He also hits people with telephones in two separate scenes.

The best scenes are the ones between De Niro and Pesci. The two gangster heavyweights have numerous confrontations as the film progresses and also provide contrasting voiceover narrations from beginning to end.

Casino is almost exactly three hours in duration but remains intense throughout. Scorsese is a master storyteller who goes through great lengths to ensure that every shot is exciting. This was the last true Italian gangster film he ever made, and his last collaboration to date with De Niro (who, of course, has gone on to bigger and better things).

Here’s to hoping the gang will reunite again soon, and until then enjoy this gripping story of quick success and its harrowing implications.

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