Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak,
Director: Martin Scorsese
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 179 Minutes
"In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose. In the end, we get it all."
Martin Scorsese and
the mafia add up to pure cinematic brilliance.
After he achieved
filmmaking brilliance with 1990’s GoodFellas,
I’m sure many were surprised when Scorsese decided to do another mob epic. It
may have also come across as a surprise that Scorsese would reunite with
co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi to construct yet another entirely fact based
story involving the mob. The result was Casino,
not only one of the best movies of the 90s, but for me, it ranks as Scorsese’s
2nd best all time film, right behind GoodFellas.
Just as Pileggi
adapted the screenplay for GoodFellas
from his book “Wise Guys”, he, along with Scorsese has adapted the
screenplay for this film from another one of his books, “Casino: Love and
Honor in Las Vegas”. It chronicles the mafia’s last “hurrah”, if you
will, in the land of glitz and glamour known as Las Vegas, which lasted for a
ten year period beginning in 1973.
The film opens in
1983, with mob-employed numbers runner Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro,
in one of his true great performances) getting into his car, which then
explodes. What unfolds in Casino is a
vibrating epic-scale tale of money, greed, obsession, love and violence. It
represents one of the boldest and most outstanding pieces of filmmaking Scorsese
has ever brought to the screen.
The story told
through flashbacks, accompanied with the always invigorating Scorsese technique
of consistent voice over narration from the main character, or as in this case,
multiple main characters. It is told not only through Ace’s point of view, but
that of his lifelong friend/connected mobster Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci). Both
men strived for dominating power in Vegas, but went for it through entirely
The first hour of
the movie plays like a riveting semi-documentary revealing how things got
started. Ace is sent to Vegas by the mob bosses in Kansas City to run the
biggest casino in Las Vegas, The Tangiers. Previously a numbers runner for the
mob, his bosses were so impressed by his winning streak as a bookie that they
saw a prominent cash machine for them in what was then a town which was run by
greed and fear.
With all the loads
of cash Ace is helping to bring in, the mob sends out Nicky, a key mob enforcer,
to shadow Ace and protect him from rival thugs and the cops. But Nicky, a
hothead with a flaming temper, is tempted to go into business for himself,
thinking Vegas could make him an untouchable. With Ace trying to become a legit
casino operator, and Nicky using violent methods to gain power, their friendship
will soon deteriorate and become a fierce rivalry.
Added to this, Ace
encounters something unexpected after arriving in Vegas, love. The night he
spots the beautiful Ginger (Sharon Stone) winning a craps game, he falls in love
immediately. Before long, the two are in very much in love, and despite her
reservations, Ace proposes marriage to her. This would be a good idea if Ginger
didn’t still have feelings for a pimp/former boyfriend (James Woods).
As the years
progress, tensions mount, betrayals are made, more and more bodies are being
buried in the desert, and the mob finds their once reigning empire slowly
crumbling. Ace starts to lose trust in both his wife and the man who was once
his friends. Ginger is soon becomes addicted to drugs and booze, and Nicky
starts attracting unwanted attention to the point that Ace doesn’t feel
comfortable being linked to him in the papers.
Things only get
worse from this point on. Before long, Ace is brought to court on charges of
fraud, Nicky is being watched 24/7 by the feds, and Ginger’s drug habit
spirals out of control. The last half of the film pretty much illustrates how
both sources of Ace’s trust betray him in the blink of an eye.
Some have tended to
unfairly label this as a GoodFellas retread,
and nothing could be farther from the truth. For one thing, this is an entirely
different story that took place at different setting. One element that always
seemed to be attacked was Joe Pesci’s trigger happy character. The actual
truth here is that Pesci is even more despicable, more violent, and much more
psychopathic than his Tommy DeVito in GoodFellas
could ever be.
Like in all of his
films, Scorsese brings an uncanny level of authenticity and detail to Casino.
The blazing assortment of music, as in GoodFellas,
is as grand a music collection as you’ll ever hear in a single movie. And
because he has applied the unique energy and pace to this epic film, Scorsese
has made a three hour movie that is never boring for a second. It’s very easy
to get wrapped up in all the action that goes down, and that’s all attributed
to Scorsese’s brilliant filmmaking qualities.
Casino remains a breathtaking, magnificent movie experience with each viewing.
It’s a masterful piece of work that only a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese
could deliver to the screen with sheer brilliance.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vega s,
except for what gets captured on Blu-ray. Universal's high definition transfer
is a striking collage of colors and details, bringing not only the city to vivid
life, but Martin Scorsese's carefully constructed period vision as well.
There is so much to see in so many different shots, I can now no longer imagine
watching this movie any other way than in high definition, even more so than
going back to a theater and seeing it on film and on a big screen.
s, except for what gets captured on Blu-ray. Universal's high definition transfer is a striking collage of colors and details, bringing not only the city to vivid life, but Martin Scorsese's carefully constructed period vision as well. There is so much to see in so many different shots, I can now no longer imagine watching this movie any other way than in high definition, even more so than going back to a theater and seeing it on film and on a big screen. Outstanding!
Having just been in Vegas myself, I have to say, this incredible DTS HD mix gets the sounds and ambience of casino life right. With uncompressed audio, you'll feel like you're right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Vegas action. This is one of the most detailed soundtracks I've heard, with clear dialogue, an amazing music score, and dynamic range.
Despite the absence of a Scorsese commentary track, which is always a big treat, Universal has brought to the table a superb level of bonus items for this Blu-ray offering, starting with their exclusive "U-Control" feature, which allows for one-click access to extra behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews while you watch the movie.
Substituting for a commentary track on the movie side is
the extra Moments with Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Nicholas Pileggi and more.
There areDeleted Scenes and five intriguing featurettes; “Casino: The Story”, “Casino: The Cast and Characters”, “Casino: The Look”, “Casino: After the Filming”, and “True Crime Authors: Casino with Nicholas Pileggi”.
Casino is back and better than ever in this new Blu-ray release. Speaking as someone who just got back from Las Vegas, I have to say, it was a real treat to see and hear the city coming alive in this bold high definition presentation.