Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese Win Big in the Casino
In the world of film making, there is no such thing as a dead cert; even the best directors and actors have made some seriously terrible movies. But the closest thing you can get to a sure bet, is the pairing of Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, their joint cinematic outings have brought us many classics from "Mean Streets" and "Raging Bull" through to the critically acclaimed "Goodfellas". So with the release of "Casino" in 1995, it is no surprise that this is yet another cinematic triumph for the famous pairing. Add in to the mix, De Niro's long term friend Joe Pesci and hot Hollywood star, Sharon Stone, and in deed you have a movie worthy of comparison to many of their earlier cinematic outings.
Set in the 1970s "Casino" chronicles the rise and fall of casino manager Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro - A Bronx Tale). As the master of his casino, Ace runs an efficient business and regularly sends cases full cold hard cash to the mob bosses. Aiding him in keeping the casino's employees and customers in order is his best friend, Nicky (Joe Pesci - Home Alone 2), a violent thug. Although Ace tries to run a respectable casino, the volatile Nicky wants to make his mark in the Las Vegas Mecca, and when Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone - The Quick and the Dead), a professional hustler, enters their lives, Ace and Nicky's friendship becomes even more stressed.
Coming from the pen of Nicholas Pileggi, who had previously wrote "Goodfellas", "Casino" is loosely based upon the true story of Frank Rosenthal, a Las Vegas casino manager who was heavily linked to the criminal underworld. Following the story of the lead character as he deals with the betrayal by his wife and best friend, "Casino" also goes to some lengths to explain how the crime bosses were able to manipulate the Las Vegas system to make it one of their most profitable arms of their businesses. In fact the first half of the movie, examines the mechanics of how this manipulation was possible, but still manages to remain highly entertaining in true Hollywood style. It is not until the second half of "Casino" that we get into the crux of the story which utilises the relationships between Sam, Ginger and Nicky to play out a rather spectacular drama, exploring many themes such as love, greed, hatred, violence and betrayal to provide us with a very engrossing cinematic experience.
As you would expect with a movie focussing on the world of the mob bosses, there are some very graphic scenes of violence. These do in fact add to the story, rather than just being added for shock value, and in all honesty are few and far between. But for those viewers, who do have a week stomach, may find some of them rather unpleasant and a bit stomach churning. A prime example of which is the scene which sees Ace dealing with cheats who enter the casino, a violent and bloody scene but also very powerful.
It is indeed a remarkable fact, that some of Robert De Niro's best performances have come at the hands of director, Martin Scorsese and that is certainly the case with his performance in "Casino". Taking on the lead role of Sam "Ace" Rothstein, De Niro puts in a performance which displays his remarkable ability to portray a character of considerable depth. As is usually the case with a De Niro/ Scorsese movie, you get one star and another automatically follows, that being the multi-talented Joe Pesci. If there ever was a Hollywood star destined to be a mafia gangster, it was surely Joe Pesci. His portrayal of murderous gangster, Nicky Santoro builds on his own very impressive portfolio of works and demonstrates that he is as skilful an actor as the legendary Robert De Niro.
Making up the trio of stars is Sharon Stone, as Ginger McKenna whose beauty captivates the character of Sam Rothstein. Although her performance is by no means in the same league as that of De Niro's, she still manages to hold her own in all of her scenes and demonstrates that she too can also play characters which are much deeper than the ones which shot her to fame.
Other notable names which make performances in this film are, Don Rickles, who takes on the role of assistant casino manager who basically gets paid to be Sam's right hand man on the Casino floor and look solemn as they go about their business. Also appearing is James Woods as the slimy pimp, Lester Diamond, who manages to retain some control over Ginger's life, even after her marriage to Sam.
A lot of praise should be steeped upon director Martin Scorsese for providing yet another insightful, but also entertaining, look at the gangster world. Like many of his previous movies, Scorsese manages to combine information and entertainment with effortless ease and it is not until you think about what you have just watched, do you realise that you have learnt so much. If I was to have one criticism of "Casino", and in particular the direction of Scorsese, is that he has not brought anything new to this movie, which he had not done before. Maybe this is me being a bit over critical, as "Casino" is very entertaining and truly magnificent. But where in the past he has dazzled us with amazing use of cinematography, he seems to have relied on exactly the same techniques to dazzle us again.
Set over three decades, culminating in the 70s, the "Casino" soundtrack encompasses the sounds of the period. With pieces coming from a varied selection of artists including Louis Prima, Dean Martin, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones and B.B. King, to name just a few. It is one of Scorsese's great skills that he manages to pick musical pieces which not only reflect the period of the film, but also ones which demonstrate the emotions being portrayed in the scenes.
What this all boils down to is that even after 15 years "Casino" hasn't lost any of its enjoyment and magnificence that it had on its original release. It is great testament to the skills of not only De Niro and Scorsese, but also those of writer Nicholas Pileggi, that after so many years, "Casino" still remains a very entertaining and insightful movie.