EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CASINO (director/writer: Martin Scorsese; screenwriter: Nicholas Pileggi/based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editor: Thelma Schoonmaker; cast: Robert De Niro (Sam Rothstein), Sharon Stone (Ginger McKenna), Joe Pesci (Nicky Santoro), James Woods (Lester Diamond), Don Rickles (Billy Sherbert), Alan King (Andy Stone), Kevin Pollak (Phillip Green), L. Q. Jones (Pat Webb), Dick Smothers (Senator); Frankie Avalon (Himself), Steve Allen (Himself), Jayne Meadows (herself), Jerry Vale (Himself), Oscar Goodman (Himself), Pasquale Cajan (Remo Gaggi), Frank Vincent (Frankie), Vinnie Vella (Artie Piscano), Melissa Prophet (Jennifer Santoro); Runtime: 170; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Barbara De Fina; Warner Home Video; 1995)|
|"Overlong and tedious crime drama epic. A
kinetic behind-the-scenes look at the Vegas casinos."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Overlong and tedious crime
drama epic. A kinetic behind-the-scenes look at the Vegas casinos. It's
a look at the mob that's been rehashed many times before so that
nothing is fresh. Director Martin Scorsese
("Kundun"/"Taxi Driver"/"GoodFellas") can't get a handle on this history lesson
(based on an actual story) on how the mob controlled the Las Vegas
casinos in the 1970s but by the late 1980s lost it to corporate
America. The bloody tale about sex, drugs, gambling and mobsters is
based on a book by investigative
Pileggi. The first two hours are weighed down by a constant voice-over
from either Robert De Niro or Joe Pesci (from beyond the grave)
explaining how the casino operates and this voice-over makes it feel
more like a docudrama than a narrative. By the time we get to the third
hour of this glossy photographed gambling story and some semblance of a
narrative kicks in, we probably lost all interest in these ugly
characters and in this ugly tale of corruption, violence and greed.
It's a Tower of Babel story that's all so passionless, uninviting and
not worth betting a plugged nickel on, even though competently made,
well-acted and watchable.
The pic charts the Las Vegas
experience of NYC gambling prodigy Sam
'Ace' Rothstein (Robert De Niro), whom the midwest mob boss Remo Gaggi (Pasquale
Cajan) puts in charge of the
Tangiers casino because he has a genius for making money and knows
everything about gambling. Legit real-estate man Phil Green (Kevin
Pollak) is given the title of running the casino to present a squeaky
clean image to the public, while in reality Sam runs the gambling
operation and Phil is not squeaky clean. Also in reality Sam's only the
front man for the Kansas
City mob. The Italian mob
refers to him as their Hebe--the
money machine handicapper/bookie who can change the odds just by
placing a bet. Though unable to
get a license from the crooked gaming commission because of a prior
conviction for bookmaking, Sam still runs the casino by changing job
titles every so often so his job title never is reviewed. The bosses
are happy that Sam keeps the casino highly profitable and he does a
good job of providing kickbacks to police, politicians and allowing the
mob backers to every month skim money off the top without those funds
entered into the books for taxes. Sam tells us in his voice-over some
of the tricks of the trade on how the power structure works in running
the casinos. His fall from grace comes about when he blindly falls
madly in love with sexy former hooker and current hustler of high-rollers Ginger
McKenna (Sharon Stone) and they marry, even though she says she
doesn't love him and still carries on a relationship with her former
pimp (James Woods). Their volatile marriage will over the
years become a disaster and bring both of them down.
Sam's success in Las Vegas
brings his former bodyguard, the psychopathic violent mob enforcer
'made-man' Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) out there. He's Sam's childhood
friend and was assigned by the mob to protect Sam when he was a bookie
in NYC. In Las Vegas Nicky becomes a loose cannon, doing freelance
jewelry heists and racketeering jobs despite being under FBI
surveillance. Nicky gets banned from the casinos as a known criminal
and, because the FBI is looking to nail him and wiretaps his phones,
Sam gets associated with the known gangster and also becomes a target
of the investigation into Las Vegas casino mob control and corruption.
The action begins and ends in
1983 with the De Niro character about to be blown up in a car bomb.
Those shots reminded me of those cliff-hanger serials, where the hero
seems doomed in one chapter but in the next chapter finds a way to get
free that was unexpected.
This is a disappointing Scorsese film. A remake of GoodFellas that
lacks that pic's good story telling ability and its raw energy. But I enjoyed its rich
1960's rock score.
REVIEWED ON 4/26/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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