Casino (1995)

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Review by ckckred of Cinematic

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Few directors, if any, can move a camera the way Martin Scorsese can. Scorsese is a filmmaker who has always exhibited incredible energy in his pictures, marking him as one of cinema’s greatest figures. In 1990, Scorsese delivered the decade’s best movie with GoodFellas, a film that defined an era of fast-action crime dramas. Five years later, Scorsese returned to the mob genre with Casino, but this time instead of examining the life of a young gangster in New York, Scorsese turns his eye to a high-profile mafia man based on Frank Rosenthal who ran a big casino in Las Vegas for a decade from 1973 to 1983.

Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is Casino’s central protagonist. Back in Chicago, Ace was a genius with numbers, allowing him to become an expert gambler. Impressed by his skills, the mafia hires Ace to run their casinos out in Las Vegas, where he could use his proficiency to help rake in millions for the mob.

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For its first third of its three-hour screen time, Casino documents Ace’s job. Employing heavy narration, Ace tells the audience how he managed to quickly converted coins from the slot machines into bills to put into a suitcase that would be sent to a mob each week, or how he makes sure that every part of the casino is operating smoothly. If anyone attempts to interfere with Ace’s process, then he deals with it. After two men are caught cheating at blackjack, Ace has one of the man’s hands broken and lets the other one off for a warning. And that is far from being the most violent act Ace and his men commit.

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However, Ace’s empire isn’t indestructible and two forces eventually come to bring about his fall. One of them is Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), an old friend of Ace’s who much like Tommy De Vito in GoodFellas is a ticking time bomb. He’s hot tempered and violent, setting off if anyone dare attack him (after being insulted in a bar by another mobster, Nicky stabs the man with his own pen). Nicky comes to Vegas to help Ace to help establish his authority. But Nicky’s violent streak eventually starts to deteriorate their friendship. The other obstacle is Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a hooker who Ace falls in love with immediately, eventually marrying her. But Ginger’s overuse of drugs and alcohol soon leads to troubles in Ace’s life.

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The comparisons to GoodFellas are inevitable. Casino was not only co-written by Nicholas Pileggi, who also did the screenplay for GoodFellas as well as the books both movies were based on, but contains the same tone. Like GoodFellas, Casino relies on stylistic tracking and steadicam shots to follow the characters around as well as utilizing a classic rock soundtrack. But Casino differentiates itself from GoodFellas through its slower pace and more expansive world. With Casino, Scorsese creates a large universe of violence and greed. He keeps a steadier pace to introduce the audience to the places and characters, giving Casino a similar feel to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

As I watched Casino, I managed to embrace the wide cast of characters and soon began to love the picture. Casino may not be quite as original or groundbreaking as GoodFellas, but it’s a mighty and worthy follow-up that’s a masterpiece of action and suspense.

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34 thoughts on “Casino (1995)

  1. Great review here, man. I think this is the first time we’ve had top marks in this Blogathon. Personally, I’d give it a 9 but wouldn’t argue about it getting a full house. I also love how DeNiro totally underplays it here. All the credit goes to Pesci and especially Sharon Stone but it’s often overlooked how good DeNiro is in this.

    • Thanks! I was debating between a 9 and 10 for a while, but judging it by itself I had to give it a ten. De Niro really does underplay his role, he along with Pesci and Stone were great.

  2. There’s an argument that Casino is the better film over Goodfellas. I wouldn’t subscribe to that, but it’s still a great piece of entertainment and De Niro is class. Great work on the review.

  3. There’s a lot of the same things going on here that went on with Goodfellas, but personally, I did not care all that much. They are both two different stories, which is how they should be approached as. Good review.

  4. I LOVE this movie. Great review. When in a certain mood for this entry, I actually enjoy it a bit more than even Goodfellas. Nice job! I may re-visit this movie this weekend. De Niro is completely incredible here.

  5. Is it weird that so many of these De Niro movies being reviewed, I don’t actually think of as “De Niro” movies? He just is so a part of the fabric of these films, that its hard to separate him from them. In this case, I always think of Casino as “that one with Sharon Stone.”

  6. Excellent review! Sharon Stone’s performance makes the film, for me. While it can be said DeNiro and Pesci were “being themselves” Stone completely transformed into a complicated character and her subtle manipulations were brilliant to behold. The greedy gleam in her eyes and her power struggle with Ace gave a dimension to DeNiro that would have been sorely missed without her.

  7. I prefer Goodfellas. Personally I didn’t like Pesci’s character Nicky as much as his character Tommy in Goodfellas. In Goodfellas, he is more likeable (e.g. Tommy DeVito: What do you mean funny? Like a clown? Do I amuse you?) and his violent behavior is offset by humor (e.g. the dialogue preceding the rash murder of Spider). The murder of Billy Batts was prefaced with Batts insulting Tommy so badly the viewer wants Batts to get whacked. On the other hand, at the end of Casino I was happy the vicious little prick was dead. That said, I still really like Casino and have watched it probably three times. It’s just that I’ve seen Goodfellas a lot more than that.

  8. Great review. De Niro is top class in this. I feel that even though he’s playing a gangster-ish, he’s playing a character who is weaker and more vulnerable than his other characters. Pesci is also great, his character is a psycho through and through.

  9. Great review. 🙂 Now Mark & Tyson can yell at me when I say I’ve not seen Casino (like they did when I didn’t LOVE Raging Bull. Lol!). I don’t think I could handle the violence in this one. I’ve avoided it for years because of that. :-/

      • That head in a vice scene inspired something blog related…….can’t quite remember what though.

        And I’m hoarse from all the yelling at you Table9, you have committed too many crimes to both cinema and more importantly Bobby 😉

  10. Great review. Ace is a more domineering and charismatic character than Jummy in GOODFELLAS, so I think you are right to give De Niro a 10. I much prefer GOODFELLAS overall, however I think De Niro’s performance is more significant in CASINO. It wouldn’t be the film that it is without him, on the other hand, GOODFELLAS would still be a brilliant film if there was another actor playing the Jimmy role.

  11. Thanks again for this review matey, excellent work. One of my favourite films and inspired my site name obviously. I gave it a 9 with my review, as Goodfellas gets a 10 and I prefer that. Just. Casino is phenomenal 🙂

    • Thanks! I was juggling between a 9 and a 10, but on its own, I think Casino stands well by itself, though I do prefer GoodFellas myself. I’m also surprised this is the only 10 yet given out so far in the blogathon.

      • As far as 10’s go, I like to think if we did one and asked for people to review their favourite De Niro movie they would all be 10’s. With this though, the chances are people have sought out their favourites, and get left with the lesser known ones. Or in your case, the great ones have eluded you so far. Here’s hoping to some more high scores at least, as some people have gone very low scoring with this project 🙂

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