Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995, USA/France)

Often overshadowed by Martin Scorsese's prior collaboration with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, 1990's GoodfellasCasino (1995) has grown in reputation over the years as a film to match - if not exceed - Goodfellas. Following a two-film break from the gangster picture (Cape Fear and The Age of Innocence), Casino brought Scorsese back into the world of crime. Another collaboration with author Nicholas Pileggi, this time Scorsese plunges us into the world of the Mafia control of Las Vegas casinos. In particular, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal - here played by De Niro as "Ace Rothstein" - a Chicago bookmaker, and his friend, the mafioso Anthony Spilotro (here played by Joe Pesci).

De Niro plays Rothstein as calm and calculated. He is a criminal, but he's also running a business. Pesci's portrayal of Nicky Santoro opens with a brutal murder, and his chaotic energy becomes a thorn in the side of De Niro's character throughout the film. The real figure that brings them down however is Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a hustler who ends up married to Rothstein. The film interweaves third-person narration between Rothstein and Santoro, weaving an energy that is peppered throughout with montages.

Scorsese's style for this kind of film was fully realized at this point, which perhaps explains why the film did not garner as much praise as Goodfellas. Still, the best scenes in the film are the conflicts that play out between De Niro and Stone, De Niro and Pesci, and the inner world of the film's characters. As we learn in the end, the corporations took over the Las Vegas casinos and the mafiosos were booted out. Still, their fingerprints can be felt in the town even today. Casino is underrated as far as Scorsese films go, and represents the director at the full realization of his talent.



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