Thursday, September 19, 2013

891. CASINO (1995)

Running Time: 179 minutes
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi, from his book
Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, Don Rickles, James Woods
Click here to view the trailer


I had to, temporarily, skip over "Goodfellas" when I put it into my DVD player two nights ago and it didn't want to play for me. Therefore, I had to jump straight to "Casino" and continue rolling the ball that is "Scorsese Week".

At this point, it is the 90s and Martin Scorsese isn't what he used to be. He made his two best films in the latter half of the 70s and perhaps he blew his wad, because he never quite got back there. Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself, let's talk details first. De Niro is, once again, the star of the show, this time playing Sam "Ace" Rothstein, an expert handicapper turned casino operator, circa the 1970s. The film begins with Ace turning the key in the ignition of his Cadillac, only to have it explode From there, we're into flashback mode and LOTS of narration via De Niro's character and Pesci's Nicky Santoro, Ace's childhood friend and the man who is put in charge of watching his back. A lot of information is thrown at the viewer, but the only thing we really need to know is that it's a gangster movie set in Las Vegas, instead of Scorsese's usual New York. After a while, Ace meets and falls in love with Ginger (Stone), a high class call girl with a penchant for snorting coke, being spoiled and collecting jewels & money from grateful men. Ace finally convinces Ginger to marry him and of course, it all goes downhill, as she still holds a flame for the pimp she can't quit and the dope she can't stop sucking through a $100 bill. There's a whole lot more details, but honestly, you got what you need...

Do you know what "Casino" reminds me of? A counterfeit $100 bill. A counterfeit $100 looks green, has Franklin on it and seems to be legit, but under closer observation it really isn't worth anything. Just like the phony money, "Casino" has the Scorsese name on it, looks like a Scorsese picture and seems like a good one on the surface, but when you start thinking like a critic, you realize that it really isn't what it's cracked up to be. So yeah, I was disappointed with "Casino", to say the least and we might as well start off with the bad, before I forget what I disliked.

For starters, this film has got to be like 60% narration. My God, the voices just never stop spewing out dialogue and it's not even eloquent, narration worthy dialogue. Let's just say you're lucky if you actually get to see the actors act, as opposed to just hearing them talk over the film, telling us what they should be showing us. You have one of the greatest actors of all-time on set and instead of utilizing his chops, you have him reading cue cards into a microphone, with plans to play his voice over 50% of the picture? Give me a break! Speaking of De Niro, we start to see a decline in his talents here, as he sort of slips into auto pilot at this point and becomes type cast as a tough guy, playing this same role in many pictures. When you watch De Niro in the previously reviewed films and the De Niro that would come in the 90s, you get the sense that you're watching an actor who's lost his chops. I'm just not a modern day De Niro fan.

You know what else I really hated about this movie? The same things I hated about "Boogie Nights". The fact that this film is all up in your "grill", with nearly constant, blaring music and did I hear Scorsese ripping off the score to "Contempt" in there? Blasphemy! Whatever happened to just natural sounds. Perhaps I'd rather hear the rhythmic sound of a car engine instead of Fleetwood Mac and whatever happened to a little silence can go a long way. To me, this film comes off as Scorsese trying really hard to recapture something. I don't know what, but that's how it seems. There's no denying he was still a fantastic filmmaker at this point and that he DID have a good idea here. This could've been a great, great film, but it's too noisy, too in your face, too desperate to win you over, gives you way too much information to process, is too flashy, too long and is not subtle enough. Also, it's a little too violent. Hey, I'm all for a violent picture, but you have to have reasoning behind your violence and not just violence for the sake of violence (same as nudity). Here, you have blood splattering for the sake of adding a little color and it's too much.

In conclusion, it's not that I hated "Casino", it's just that I was disappointed in it. I'm a big Scorsese fan (as you've probably been able to surmise) but this wasn't up to his standards. If you look at Scorsese in the 90s, it seems the more he downplayed it, the better it was. Films like "Bringing Out the Dead", "Cape Fear" and even his contribution to "New York Stories" are all fine examples of why Scorsese still had IT in the final decade of the 20th century and they all rely on the subtleties. "Casino" relies on being hyperactive and BARELY succeeds...and I do mean BARELY.

RATING: 6/10  Just right around the average marker, but I love Martin too much to call anything he does a '5' or lower. I'm working on it though. Also, I'm totally fine with this being taken out of THE BOOK, in the new edition, and I definitely get why they did it.



  1. I delayed a reply to this one as i didn't have much new to add... but I agree with comments in this and the goodfellas film.. this certainly felt like an attempt to re-visit past glory.


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