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Worth A Look: 24.43%
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Pretty Crappy: 6.87%
Sucks: 7.63%

5 reviews, 101 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Third-Rate Rendition of the Second-Rate 'Goodfellas'"
1 stars

Well, you can certainly see where all the money went into this lavish $52 million production, but it certainly didn't buy much in the way of wit and imagination.

Martin Scorsese's Casino might as well be called Goodfellas in Vegas since it's basically a rehash of that overrated 1990 film with the same character types populating Las Vegas rather than Brooklyn this time around. Goodfellas was contextually lacking what with its stale recycling of gangster-film familiarities, but stylistically it boasted considerable pace and texture; Casino, on the other hand, is amorphously vague and joylessly mechanical -- it simply doesn't have enough viable material for its drawn-out three-hour running time, and where Scorsese was able to give the occasional lift to Goodfellas he never manages to get Casino out of second gear. After taking quite the artistic chance with the phenomenal The Last Temptation of Christ, it was disappointing seeing him regress to safe Mean Streets territory with Goodfellas two years later; and after nobly failing in his unsuccessful adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, here he is two years later falling back on another gangster film. As with Goodfellas it's based on a non-fiction book by Nicolas Pigelli and co-written by him and Scorsese: it's the telling over a ten-year period of the trails and tribulations of one Sam "Ace" Rothchild, a New York Jewish gambling handicapper sent out to Las Vegas by the Italian Mob in the early nineteen-seventies to oversee the operations of their Tangiers casino-hotel. Sam is indeed an ace with the numbers -- he has an uncanny ability at picking winners through extensive research and intuition, and can spot a con job a mile away, which makes him perfect for spotting the grifters who've mastered ways of cheating the dealers at the tables. He's an initially intriguing character, but due to the inefficient writing and Robert De Niro's inexpressive performance, he never manages to come alive -- we're forever watching the stiffest, most impersonal character Scorsese has ever trotted out; it were as if Scorsese, who's never been one for narrative, expected the superb technical credits alone to carry the day. They're not. Nor should they. As derivative as Goodfellas was you could still sense Scorsese's fascination (no matter how juvenile) with the subject at hand; here, he comes off strictly as a director-for-hire, apparently having taken on the project simply because there was a Mob element involved. And considering how much time obviously went into this three-hour production, with numerous actors and set pieces to arrange, watching the film play out is especially depressing -- "Gee, that Scorsese could've made another The Last Waltz or The King of Comedy," keeps going around in your head.

Joe Pesci has again been cast as a loudmouthed, temperamental tough guy, Nicky Santoro, a ruthless enforcer sent by the Mob to be Sam's "muscle," only Sam isn't particularly welcoming of his strong-arm tactics -- he's looking to run a smooth operation free of overt criminal activity so as not to give the state's Gaming Control Board a reason to deny him a license and all the necessary permits. (The board is made up of shady, duplicitous politicians who use their considerable power to extract freebies in the form of free lavish suites and high-price call girls while at the same time purporting to represent "decency" on the part of their constituents. Naturally, we're supposed to see these hoary hypocrites as more contemptible than the Mob, which is the same cheap paralleling The Godfather Part II partook in.) The people Nicky has to answer to are thousands of miles away, never complaining as long as their hefty take keeps steadily coming in every week; and Nicky, who sees a wealth of opportunities in this untested desert oasis (like bribing staff members to alert him when guests are checking in with expensive jewelry and fur coats, which he can then steal and fence), doesn't bother listening to Sam -- he sees him as "soft," a stick-in-the-mud too concerned with sucking up to the powers that be and maintaining "respectability" in the community. Nicky's also unpredictably, quintessentially violent, and Pesci, who played virtually the same character in Goodfellas, becomes a tiresome, grating bore inside of ten minutes -- where he displayed marvelous control and brimmed with finely-tuned internal tension in Goodfellas, here he's operating all on one level minus the modulation. Maybe there was some potential in contrasting the rules-abiding/pleasure-deprived Sam and the rules-breaking/pleasure-loving Nicky, but Scorsese hasn't dramatized it -- in fact, he hasn't dramatized much of anything. Which is particularly evident in the who-cares tumultuous relationship between Sam and Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a hustler who latches onto high-rolling men and demands a cut of their winnings for bringing them good luck at the tables. Ginger's a well-dressed floozie completely devoid of a moral compass, yet we're expected to buy that the supposedly world-wise Sam believes she has true affectation for him, and he marries her, lavishing on her materialistic possessions in the hope of domesticizing her; instead, she's funneling her money to her ex-Beverly Hills pimp, Lester (James Woods, unflatteringly made up to look like John Cazale's pathetic The Godfather character Fredo), and eventually sleeping with Nicky so as to turn the men against each other.

Has Scorsese reached the point in his much-revered career where he thinks he's above adhering to storytelling basics and dramatic fundamentals? Everything in Casino is overwrought and vacuous, with an extensively-used voiceover device coupled with panoramic camera sweeps that are forever showing and telling us at the same time, giving us intricacies (how a casino is run; who's scamming who) that aren't nearly as tantalizing as Scorsese would like to think. The film's a docudrama chock-full of uninteresting physical detail and a practically nonexistent dramatic base; there's a crucial level missing, an elemental one that would coalesce the people and props on the screen into something organically realized. Scorsese has hired talented actors and technicians, but they don't add up to anything. De Niro and Pesci and Stone are left cruelly exposed, left to fend for themselves striving for "truth" that just isn't there, with De Niro, whose magnificently understated performance was the chief asset in Michael Mann's lukewarm Heat earlier in the year, faring the worst with such a perpetually bland leading role. (In just one scene with De Niro, that veteran Western-movie actor L.Q. Jones, as a county commissioner who unsubtly tries blackmailing Sam into rehiring an incompetent son-in-law of his, makes such an indelible impression we wish an entire film to built around him.) And as expert as the contributions from Oscar winners editor Thelma Schoonmaker and cinematographer Robert Richardson are, because they outclass the characters at each and every turn, we're aware of these as technical contributions, thus making us aware of the film as such (in one shot, an aqua bottle of Milk of Magnesia has been color-coordinated with one of Sam's loud lounge-lizard-like suits!). Scorsese's Cape Fear, which came out between Goodfellas and The Age of Innocence, was an outlandish, ill-advised remake, but one couldn't help but revel in the director's unfettered flamboyance -- working in widescreen for the first time, Scorsese, imbuing each and every frame with a crazy, fevered intensity, directed as if he were having the time of his life; and as ludicrous and dissociated as the film was, we couldn't help but have some kind of apprehensive response to it. (It was terrible, but terrible in a fascinating kind of way that keeps us going back to the cinema.) Casino is considerably worse, because our detachment from the generic goings-on prevent us from ever getting inside it even when Scorsese piles on gratuitous violence to reel us in -- a man having his head crushed in a vise and his eyeballs popping out isn't necessarily offensive, but the use of it for the sole sake of scoring an easy effect is.

Once again Scorsese serves up the same stale spiel that a life of crime holds a luxurious fascination but ultimately doesn't pay, only with a tendentious nostalgic air this time around yearning for the good old days when the "honorable" Mob rather than "dishonorable" corporations ran Las Vegas, as is surmised by Nicky in one of several of the film's spelled-out voiceovers, "But in the end, we fucked it up. It should've been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were given anything that fuckin' valuable again." Does Scorsese really expect us to feel these group of moral degenerates, who in the end have no true allegiances and loyalties to one another, are even remotely worthy of some kind of a pity party? As flawed as Mann's Heat was, its etching of De Niro's master thief Neil McCauley's and his close-knit criminal ring was dimensional and sharp (they had a code and were bound together with real gravitas), whereas Sam and Nicky, who never really like each other and are always on the outs, are never appealing as either individuals or associates -- three-quarters of the time we don't even want to look at them (Sam, because he's a myopically-minded fool who takes an eternity to grasp the ramifications of his stubbornness; Nicky, for he's always acting the reckless, disregard-the-consequences fool; and De Niro and Pesci, because they're tiredly recycling past mannerisms and tics they can do in their sleep by now). There's something fundamentally insulting about Casino in its belaboring the painfully obvious at each and turn without bothering to put any kind of fresh spin or witty observation onto the material, that there must be something wrong with the viewer who isn't wise enough to favorably respond to it; and in turn you might find yourself having more contempt for a director than one would think possible for someone so gifted, because he's still childishly locked into a lackadaisical vision punctuated with a boys-will-be-boys mentality where the females are nothing more than subsidiary hangers-on. (In Goodfellas the anti-hero's strong-willed wife was eventually reduced to a hysteric ninny, much like the even-harder-to-take Ginger is here.) This malodorous film is forever laden with triteness and stuffed to the gills with delusions of grandeur for something so embarrassingly tinny. Ten years ago Casino would still be unctuous, and with bright spots in the subgenre since like Miller's Crossing and State of Grace and Bugsy it's flat-out unbearable. Scorsese's super-sized ego's burning himself a hole in the carpet, along with digging himself a hole with a golden shovel with all this high-gloss, high-flautin swill.

About as enjoyable as gulping watered-down drinks and losing your shirt at the roulette table.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1012&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/17/13 08:41:06
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell very good even if its goodfellas goes 2 vegas and it stick close to the real story on which 4 stars
5/27/16 stephen a masterwork 5 stars
6/03/15 stanley welles deft, visually impressive and admirably performed 4 stars
9/11/11 Captain00Kirk A 3 hour-version of Goodfellas, I'm in! www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 5 stars
3/02/11 chris c Kinda of a retread of Goodfellas with De Niro and Pesci but ultimately rewarding 4 stars
2/26/11 Jeff Wilder Great overall even if half an hour shoulda been shaved off. 4 stars
2/09/11 nigger whipper fuck the niggers 5 stars
11/02/10 Mark O. Avery Pesci & DeNiro Score again!!! 5 stars
9/23/10 Flathead King Not bad but well below Scorsese's best. 3 stars
4/10/09 Dane Youssef Almost a dream state. The world's most insight look at the universe's most fascinating city 5 stars
2/23/09 brian Scorsese's best crime film, with more objectivity than he's used to 4 stars
1/04/09 matt one of the best movies ever, incendiary, brilliant script 5 stars
3/04/08 ladavies Nobody can tell a better gangster story than Scorsese. 5 stars
2/01/08 Quigley Good acting and direction, but it was too much of a Goodfellas imitation to be acceptable 3 stars
11/19/07 Wendell O. Maness True story, but Civella was a wimp, chickenshit old man 3 stars
7/27/07 theresa Aldrich 3 hours of pure genius! 5 stars
7/23/07 Terry Departed is ripoff of a better Hong Kong film. At least Casino is more original. 4 stars
6/23/07 Bitchflaps Scorcese had been here before with Goodfellas, and Goodfellas was average. 1 stars
4/27/07 Double M One of Scorsese's best. everything is just great. 5 stars
2/14/07 I Gluck Great movie, great cast...Pesci is top notch 5 stars
2/13/07 action movie fan too long and tedious the departed was a good deal better 2 stars
2/12/07 The chode Awesome Movie. 5 stars
10/10/06 Jan A classic!!! 5 stars
10/09/06 Bugsy Last and great Scorsese film. Departed sucked. 5 stars
8/20/06 Sepi53 Great cast! Joe Pesci, De Niro and above all SHARON 5 stars
7/24/06 Sandy + Stephanie (twins) very nice 4 stars
5/22/06 Agent Sands A great Scorsese epic. No one can top Pesci's gangster charisma. 5 stars
5/05/06 dionwr Good but not great Scorsese 4 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Haven't seen all of it. 3 stars
5/01/06 William Goss Still haven't seen it. 4 stars
5/01/06 David Cornelius Gets better with repeat viewings 5 stars
5/01/06 HBS-SH cards with the kgb 5 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley Nastier than Goodfellas...but not better. 4 stars
2/27/06 matt they don't make em like this anymore 5 stars
1/04/06 John Dog Great movie. 5 stars
12/26/05 Monday Morning Great until S.Stone entered the pic...then it gummed up a bit. 4 stars
11/19/05 Phil M. Aficionado Sciortino sez: "..ex-boyfriend (Don Rickles).."; No, James Woods. Great film, esp S. Stone 5 stars
10/15/05 Moctezuma Though not as good as Goodfellas, it's still pretty great 5 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor One of the finest films of the 90's 5 stars
9/29/05 Michael Blower Next to the Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas this is the daddy! 5 stars
9/26/05 Anthony G Highly entertaining, I didn't move for three hours! 5 stars
8/17/05 Indrid Cold Some surprisingly disturbing violence, but a good story to support it. 4 stars
7/02/05 jimmy better than goodfellas 5 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands For a 3-hour movie, it sure doesn't seem that long. 5 stars
3/15/05 Pete fraud good movie. a little bit long 4 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig The best gangster-Vegas movie you will ever see 5 stars
1/26/05 Jeff Anderson About as great as GOODFELLAS and THATS saying something! Amazing production design & acting 5 stars
12/02/04 Carly Austin Robert de Niro in one of the most understated, underrated performances of all time. 5 stars
11/23/04 Geoff My 2nd favorite Scorsese movie behind Raging Bull 5 stars
11/20/04 Kristina Williams Sharon Stone's best work 5 stars
10/23/04 UMER i don't know why it is one of the most underrated movies of all time 5 stars
5/29/04 king eric top quality film. pesci kicks ass 5 stars
2/21/04 your worst goddamn nightmare cool flick; narration reminded me of Goodfellas... and that's a good thing! 5 stars
9/22/03 jack after i saw this movie it made me go hit my friend in the teeth with a baseball bat 5 stars
7/21/03 AD underated masterpeice 5 stars
7/20/03 john_cord Very damn good film. No Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Taxi Driver but riveting nevertheless. 5 stars
7/01/03 jackass if its too graphic then dont watch it ya wacky prick:P 5 stars
5/12/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back, Mo'fos!!!) De Niro, Pesci, & Scorsese should've won every award there is for this. Good soundtrack, 2! 5 stars
4/16/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Superb. 5 stars
3/21/03 GMan A good movie. Goodfellas is better. Sharon Stone sucks ass. DeNiro kicks ass. 3 stars
2/22/03 jennifer carter awesome flick 5 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Good film - swearing overload though 4 stars
12/29/02 Femme_Fataleaa Very dissapointing...thought these heavy hitters could bring the heat! 2 stars
12/27/02 Charles Tatum No one addresses how frickin' long this thing is 3 stars
12/27/02 Jack Sommersby A 3rd-rate version of the 2nd-rate Goodfellas 1 stars
10/15/02 Monster W. Kung Great. Violence is occasionally too graphic, but it's still an excellent film. 5 stars
8/24/02 Turkish if u hav got the patience for long movies, you gotta see this shit man 5 stars
7/27/02 sdjfsdkjf get over the comparisons with goodfellas, it gets old. Not as bad as ppl make out. 4 stars
6/22/02 R.W. Welch Nothing really wrong here but it's mostly familiar stuff. 4 stars
11/28/01 The $1.98 Pyramid Perfect in every way. 5 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Feels like a Goodfellas re-visit, but it stands out as another great Scorsese film. 5 stars
3/19/01 Michael Nicholls It's true i tell u! It;'s my life story on celluloid! 5 stars
2/16/01 MagdaM I have seen this film and I think it is very good film 5 stars
10/26/00 Jackie Townsend It was okay, but needed plot development 4 stars
9/07/00 Terrie Smith A lot like "Goodfellas" but not nearly as good. Pesci very boring. 3 stars
8/04/00 Elvisfan A rare Scorsese failure; by now its all been done by him, better too 3 stars
7/09/00 Tim In many ways a rehash of "Goodfellas", but still worth a look because of the sets & fashion 3 stars
6/24/00 Crystal Fleming Held my interest the entire time. Good acting. 5 stars
1/14/00 Fuck Yeah!! The cleverest,wittiest,most thought provoking movie ever!Right up there with Goodfellas!! 5 stars
11/11/99 jj fgf 1 stars
9/24/99 alyssa Wish Scorcese made more pix. 5 stars
9/03/99 Elizaveta I am fucking scared of the mafia. Did Joe Pesci and little bro really have to die that way! 4 stars
6/30/99 Popa Chulo Almost hard to watch. Fuck is said 362 times, eyeballs are popped out of heads. It was good 4 stars
6/27/99 Chris Gianaras Great movie even though it recycled everything from GoodFellas. 5 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Scorcese does it again. De Niro and Stone are fantastic. 5 stars
4/22/99 lucas jackson This movie was a great display of the underworld in casinos 4 stars
3/14/99 little jerry Goodfellas is more flashy but also more annoying.I suspect this will stay with me longer. 4 stars
3/06/99 davebo Great movie overall but lets face it, its no Goodfellas 4 stars
11/27/98 Mr.Pink Has it's laws, but still impressive overall. 4 stars
11/25/98 Fred Stone almost became an actress. I wish I could stab some dick in the neck & get away w/ it. 5 stars
11/06/98 grunter 1 image remains: a dead Pesci being buried in his underpants: big Scorsese misstep 2 stars
11/04/98 Bad Kosh De Niro and Pesci rule, mobsters owning a casino... but lacking. 3 stars
10/26/98 Silent Rob Just misses a 'F.A.' If you liked 'Goodfellas', here's more..... 4 stars
10/24/98 Lord Of The Dunce Sharon Stone is sad. She's such a coffee table. 3 stars
10/07/98 Maegs More pretty pictures. Not a big Stone fan, but she was better than usual 4 stars
9/30/98 Melissa De Niro is really cool! This movie is a must see for the family. 5 stars
9/19/98 {{{OZ}}} Lost a star for Pesci, another for Stone. 3 stars
9/19/98 J-Guy *really good, but really long. maybe too long. but really good. loses a star for length.* 4 stars
9/16/98 Bbanks2908 Fucking awesome De Niro and Pesci at there best 5 stars
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  22-Nov-1995 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006

  23-Feb-1996 (18)

  07-Mar-1996 (R)

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