Casino (1995)

Finally.  The GOODFELLAS gang (Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pilegii,
Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci) reunites for this stunning, yet
demanding story of mob interests in 1970's Las Vegas.  Based on
Pilegii's non-fiction book, CASINO is the story of bookie-turned-
casino boss Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro).  He's the brains behind
the operation of the Tangiers Hotel and Casino, who, along with
problem pal Nicky Santoro (Pesci), works to keep the cash flowing
back to the Midwestern mob bosses.

Despite the prickly prospects of the subject matter-- as well as a
177-minute running time-- the first hour of CASINO is nothing short
of incredible.  The story opens with an extended introduction into
casino management and the mob ties therein.  Every conceivable base
is covered as Pesci and De Niro narrate over a steady stream of
oldies, while Scorsese's camera stays in constant motion through
quick cut after cut after cut.  It's a great start that slows,
somewhat, in the second hour.

With the introduction of Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a Vegas
vamp who ends up holding "Ace's" ace, the narrative becomes more
conventional.  No problem.  Stone proves up to the task of the
exceptionally demanding role, though her cool chemistry with costar
De Niro is muted and often difficult to read.  In fact, one could
argue that, even though it's a dramatic portend to later events,
her entire subplot could be easily excised without any noticeable
reduction to the overall structure, or emotion, of the story.

If De Niro and Stone are both a bit distant, Pesci is right there.
He's the actor with the most fire, even if he's playing awfully
close to his Oscar-winning role from GOODFELLAS.  (Anyone for a
tally of how often Pesci says the f-word?  Or how many cigs De Niro
smokes?) Backing the big three is a shrewd supporting cast that
includes James Woods, Alan King, Kevin Pollock, and a serious Don
Rickles.  (The funny Don Rickles can be heard in TOY STORY, also
opening this week.)

The third, and final hour of CASINO lacks something.  As each of
the characters close on their grim, inescapable outcomes, there's
neither a rush, nor a relief at the end.  No overt emotion for the
viewer other than, perhaps, horror at the grisly fates suffered by
some.  (Hint: you'll be taking back junior's baseball-bat
Christmas present after watching this one.)  The beginning may be a
blast, but the ending is nothing special.  CASINO just ends; and
that's that.

Technical credits are easily some of the best of the year.  Dante
Ferretti's eye-popping production design is a winner, as are Rita
Ryack and John Dunn's fine, period costumes.  Great soundtrack,
too.  Such a sumptuous production... I can't wait to see it again.
Viva Las Vegas.

BOTTOM LINE:  Scorsese.  Casual viewers beware.

Grade: A-

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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