Sunday, September 22, 2013

814. GOODFELLAS (1990)

Running Time: 145 minutes
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese, from the novel Wise Guys by Nicholas Pileggi
Main Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino
Click here to view the trailer


FINALLY, I get the opportunity to finish "Goodfellas" and conclude the "Scorsese Week" that wound up turning into two weeks, nearly three. This is the movie that, even though I owned it on DVD and just last week, ordered it through Amazon on Blu-Ray, I still had to pay $2 to see. Stay tuned...

So the film is, kind of, a lot like "Casino", in that it uses a butt ton of narration and pop music to tell it's story, except Scorsese makes things flow a lot smoother here. The main narration is via the main character, Henry Hill (Liotta), who, for as long as he can remember, has always wanted to be a gangster. Tracing Hill's life back to his days as a teenager, working at a cab stand in Brooklyn, for the Cicero crime family. Henry mainly answered to Tuddy, the brother of "made" man and Cicero don, Paul (Sorvino). The film also introduces us to James "Jimmy the Gent" Conway (De Niro) and Tommy (Pesci), two old-time Mafia men, both with violent streaks. Since Henry breaks into the crime business at such a young age, he grows up being a right hand man to the Cicero clan. The film is HEAVILY narrated by Henry, who at the age of twenty-two met and later married Karen (Bracco). The two were a good match, but the mob life eventually soured Henry on married life and ultimately, like most mobsters, he took a girlfriend, whom he set up with a cushy little apartment. Hill ends up doing a little prison time, but prison life for wise guys, as portrayed in the film, isn't like regular prison life and as long as they greased enough palms, they coasted by on an easy road. Later, Henry is warned about dope dealing, by Paulie, but doesn't heed his boss' advice and gets wrapped up in the drug racket.

So, yeah, I'm not sure why, but I thought this was worlds better than "Casino". If you think about it, "Casino" is almost, kind of like a remake of "Goodfellas". Both films heavily feature narration, both films feature an almost non-stop, pop soundtrack, both films are based on works by Nicholas Pileggi, both films are about "wise guys", both films are based on real people and I'm sure there's a lot of other similarities. I now wonder why Scorsese would make such a similar film, only five years later, especially considering he was probably never going to top "Goodfellas". Maybe he was just trying to recreate the success of the 1990 picture, but he failed miserable and I hope he knows that. I've honestly never noticed the similarities before, but that's the perk of review writing, you tend to over think everything.

This film was just FAR more interesting. The Ace Rothstein character of "Casino" did absolutely nothing to capture my interest, whereas I actually found myself, many times, wondering what it  must've been like to be Henry Hill, to live in that era, doing what he did, leading the life he lead. Oh and while we're talking Hill, let's not forget about Liotta, who has never really impressed me before, but this time really stood out to me. That one scene where he beats up the guy that tried to rape Karen - watch his face after he smashes the guy's face in and he's walking back across the street. He just looks like a killer. His facials are so brilliant, they're scary. Here's a guy - Liotta - who found himself shoulder to shoulder with one of the all-time greats (De Niro) and decided that he just had to bring his A game and that's just what he did. Kudos to Liotta! Bracco wasn't bad either, but tell me she doesn't look like Debra Winger's twin! I half kept waiting for the scene where we found out she had cancer and Shirley MacLaine showed up to give Henry guff about cheating on her.

So, in conclusion, this is just a great movie and I defy you not to be totally caught up by the mob lifestyle, either finding it deplorable or fascinating - and not a good kind of fascinating, but that kind of fascinating where you can't believe people actually lived this high roller, gun toting, drug sniffing lifestyle. It features fantastic performances all around, a score that won't make you wish it would just stop (who doesn't love "Layla" and that montage of dead body discoveries?) and effective narration from Liotta and Bracco, that makes you glad the narration is present, so that you constantly be getting little tidbits of information and background.

RATING: 9/10  I just didn't get that '10' feel, which is necessary when giving a '10', but it's a damn fine film and one that would come with my highest of recommendations.


Usually I say a few words about the director, but I think you get that I'm a huge Scorsese nerd and I'll just let the reviews speak for themselves. Anyway, here's a quick list of the Scorsese films, listed best to worst, as per my personal opinion.

1) Taxi Driver
2) Raging Bull
3) Goodfellas
4) The King of Comedy
5) The Departed
6) Mean Streets
7) Casino

I'd like to do some non-BOOK reviews of some of his other works, so keep an eye on the recap section either at the end of this month or next.


September 22, 2013  6:51pm


  1. So I got so caught up in detailing the film, that I forgot to tell the story of why I had to spend $2 to see this, despite owning it on DVD and ordering it on Blu-Ray.

    So my wife and I have started up a little eBay atore, to sell off some of our DVDs. In doing this, we've also decided to start re-purchasing a few things on blu-ray. One of the things my wife and I saw that looked like a really good deal, was a gangster movie set that included Goodfellas, Mean Streets, The Departed, Heat and The Untouchables, all good to great films. At only like $25 - $30 we went for it and thus were able to sell DVD copies of four of the five (didn't own Untouchables on DVD).

    Well, I needed to watch this for THE BOOK and the blu-ray hadn't arrived, so I had to use my DVD copy, which after 19 minutes in my DVD player, decided to glitch like CRAZY! The next night, for the heck of it, I decided to try it in my blu-ray player before throwing it in the trash. Well, it worked!

    I didn't have the energy to finish it in one sitting, so I stopped at about the 50 minute mark, with plans to finish it the next night. The next night rolls around and ten minutes in and it starts glitching. This is in the blu-ray player and after it worked for forty-five mins with no problems whatsoever.

    So I had to stop it that night and just decided to wait for the blu-ray copy, which I'd hoped would arrive on Saturday. Well, it didn't and wanting to just finish the film, I just ordered it OnDemand for $2 bucks. So yeah, kind of a bunch of crap, but at least I got a replacement copy on the way and got the film finished.

  2. Interesting foot note!

    Ah, now we are talking..
    In my humble opinion, second only to King of Comedy in films I have enjoyed of his. (I rather had to use that clumsy wording as I still don't dispute how good the films Raging Bull and Taxi driver are.. I just happen not to like them that much).
    That is if we are not allowed 'A personal journey through American Cinema' which I re-watch quite frequently.
    Yes, the dead bodies montage was good.. but I'm afraid i will take the more obvious choice (full marks to you for not doing so) and pick the arrival at the back door of the night club steadycam shot.

    PS...You are aware that MS is a great fan of Val Lewton and his films, so, if he (sorry WHEN he) reads your blog, he will be most disappointed in your opinions of a certain two films on this list.

    1. I wish he'd read my blog, but I have my doubts. Thanks again for the well thought out comment Ray.

      I have to say, the steady cam through the kitchen just didn't stick out to me as much as other, better steady cam shots did.

  3. How do you rank the Scorsese films that are in other editions of the book, namely; The Age of Innocence, Kundun, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street

    1. I've never seen The Age of Innocence, Kundun or Hugo and it's been way too long since I've seen either Gangs of New York or The Aviator to make comments on them without seeing them again.


      I did see The Wolf of Wall Street when I was in Ohio on vacation and what a waste of vacation time it was. You can check out my thoughts if you swing by my Letterboxd profile, where I wrote a full scale review of the film.

      Thanks for writing!


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