Films to See Before You Die: #4 Goodfellas


Goodfellas (1990)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

Synopsis: Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), has always wanted to be a gangster and begins working for the Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) as a teenager. He also meet Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) who at 25 is already notorious for his love of stealing. Jimmy introduces Henry to another young criminal named Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), whose temper can go off at any time. It’s not long before Henry gets pinched by the cops for selling stolen cigarettes for Jimmy but he does the right thing and keeps quiet, he is later rewarded for his courage. A few years later Henry does Tommy a favour by going on a double date with a girl named Karen (Lorraine Bracco), the date does not go well but they agree to go on another which Henry stands her up. She makes Tommy drive around and find Henry so she can yell at him, eventually the two get married. Jimmy and Henry get busted and sent to jail for a few years leaving Karen alone to take care of their children. After Henry gets out he begins selling cocaine with Jimmy and Tommy without Paulie’s knowledge. Tommy’s temper gets the better of him when he kills Billy Batts who was a made man without permission because the guy insulted Tommy which is a big breach of protocol. A few years later Jimmy pulls of the biggest heist in U.S. history the Lufthansa Heist. After the heist Tommy learns he is to be a made man meaning both Jimmy and Henry have an in because they are eligible to be made men because of their Irish descent. On the day Tommy is to be honoured it instead turns out to be a trap with Tommy being murdered for killing Billy Batts. Henry eventually gets busted for cocaine possession and faces a much longer jail term unless he turns on his adopted family. After Paulie gives him some cash and sends him on his way a desperate Henry does something he never thought he was capable of doing.

Trivia: The “You think I’m funny?” scene was based on a story that Joe Pesci acted out for Martin Scorsese. While working in a restaurant as a young man, Pesci once told a mobster that he was funny and the mobster became very angry. Scorsese allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene. He did not tell the other actors in the scene what would happen because he wanted their genuine surprised reactions. Every one of Robert De Niro’s outfits had a watch and a pinkie ring to go with it.

Why I think you should see this: Martin Scorsese is just so talented and this film is the perfect example. This is my favourite of his movies and it marks another fine collaboration between him and screen legend Robert De Niro who shines in this film. Ray Liotta is amazing as Henry Hill giving the performance of a lifetime but the movie belongs to Joe Pesci’s foul mouthed and explosive tempered Tommy DeVito. This is one of greatest Gangster films of all time and is a great companion piece for Casino. I am sure most people have seen this but for those who haven’t this is a masterpiece of modern cinema so check it out.

Films to See Before You Die: #24 Casino


Casino (1995)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods

Synopsis: Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), is the best gambler around and he is given the chance of a lifetime to run the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas for the mob outfit he places bets for. They want Ace to run the casino because he is so meticulous with his procedures they are sure he is going to make them a fortune. Everything is going very well for Ace and the casino when he meets Ginger (Sharon Stone), a local hustler who steals his heart and although she doesn’t want to he convinces her to marry him. While the casino is doing really well the bosses in Kansas want to make sure their money is secure and they send Ace’s best friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who is one of the outfits best muscles. Ace and Ginger are now married with a young daughter but she cannot seem to end her relationship with her former pimp/boyfriend Lester Diamond (James Woods), who keeps milking her for 25 grand every few months. When Nicky starts to go into a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol he threatens to bring Ace’s entire operation down with him something the bosses won’t allow to happen.

Trivia: The word “fuck” is said 422 times, including in the narration – 2.4 times per minute on average. The film also holds the Guinness world record for the most swearing in a film. To avoid the continuity problems that accompany a chain-smoking movie character, Robert De Niro always held his cigarettes the same distance from the lit end so that their lengths never appear to change. The movie is based on the career of casino boss Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal as portrayed by Robert De Niro’s character Sam “Ace” Rothstein.

Why I think you should see this: Casino is a great film and I am convinces it was passed over by the academy awards just because it was of the same style as Goodfellas but this is a different beast entirely. Using the same narrating style that was used in Goodfellas except instead of Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco you get De Niro and Pesci which in my opinion isn’t a such a bad thing. Scorsese does yet another superb job from the directors chair and he also collaborates with author Nicholas Pilleggi again for a rock solid script. Both De Niro and Pesci are amazing but its really Sharon Stone who steals the show in a role that was perfect for her. Just a great film and the perfect companion piece for Goodfellas check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #29 The Departed

the departed

The Departed (2006)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson

Synopsis: In South Boston, the state police force is waging war on Irish-American organized crime leader Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), is recruited by an elite undercover task force led by Captain Queenan and Staff Sgt. Dignam (Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg), to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Costello has an ace up his sleeve in Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the state police as an informer for the syndicate. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he is involved with. But when it becomes clear to both the mob and the police that there’s a mole in their midst. Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself. It isn’t until both are cleared of suspicion and Sullivan is put in charge of finding the mole in the department that their lives truly begin to unravel.

Trivia: Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in the title role in The Good Shepherd, but he dropped out to play Billy Costigan in this movie. Matt Damon then took the role. Robert De Niro turned down the role of Queenan to appear in The Good Shepherd. This is the movie with the most uses of the word “fuck” and its derivatives (237) to win the Best Picture Oscar. Mark Wahlberg based his performance on the police officers who’d arrested him about two dozen times in his youth, and the reactions of his parents who had to come bail him out with their grocery money.

Why I think you should see this: Martin Scorsese has continuously been making some of the best movies over the last 40 years and the Departed is no exception. There are no real standouts in the cast because this is a true ensemble film to its core but I have to say Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg delivered some pretty entertaining performances. While this is not Scorsese’s best films it has the distinction of being the only one he made thayt won him a Best Director Oscar. Check this one out its a real gritty cops and robbers film with an interesting twist.