I’ve mentioned before how Goodfellas was a film that changed my life along with a few others in my review of Casino. But I think this might be the third time I have actually seen it since then. Now as an adult, I can review this without my judgement being clouded over by a romanticisation of the mob that somehow inspired an insecure teenager to blend violence against oppressive classmates with the coolness of Vito Corleone when with friends. Good times (Ha!).
Have you ever seen The Sopranos? If so, then you’ll see some familiar (and evidently younger) faces among the cast. The Sopranos can effectively be seen as a loose Goodfellas reunion with new actors and a parallel universe. You’ll see plenty of them, including Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) as Spider The Bartender, Frank Vincent (Phil Leotardo) as Billy Batts, and of course, Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, Lorraine Bracco (Dr Melfi) as Karen Hill, the wife of our main character Henry.
The movie is based on the life of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), an Irish-Siciliian Mobster who was an associate in the Lucchese Crime Family, and it focuses on his life from the years 1955 to 1980. From when he started small at the age of 12 up until he was 37 when he did what he did. Judging from the film, he had a fun and interesting life…and also a crappy life at the same time. He worked primarily under Paul Cicero (played by Paul Sorvino), a mob capo in the neighbourhood when he was a boy, and his usual partners in crime were Irish-Italian Jimmy “The Gent” Conway (played by Robert De Niro) and full-blooded Italian Tommy DeVito (played by Joe Pesci, in arguably his most famous role outside of Home Alone). Names were obviously changed.
The cinematography was really good, and it’s an approach that Martin Scorcese became known for preferring in some of his later films. It worked incredibly well, but didn’t try to be heavily artistic. Also some great long shots of human travel, such as showing Henry and Karen entering a club through the kitchen.
The Music is awesome. It’s the type of music that should be played more on the radio, but isn’t. Some golden oldies these are, and perfect for nights out. If you’ve seen Casino, you’ll know the type of soundtrack this film will have.
The acting is really excellent, everybody did an great job. Even Michael Imperioli, who had a small but very memorable role. In terms of playing mobsters, this is 1 of Robert De Niro’s stronger performances, if not his best. Ray Liotta did a great job playing the charismatic and proud Henry, who gives the impression, at least for a time, that he has it all together. But it’s also clear that he shows off his human side well. Underneath the interior of a mobster, Henry is fine with beat-downs, but unlike his peers Jimmy and Tommy, Henry isn’t cold enough to handle murder like they do. Joe Pesci is well known for his “Funny How?” scene in this film, but apparently in terms of accuracy, character-wise, Joe Pesci got the real Tommy DeVito about 90% correct according to the real Henry Hill…that says something. Even though the real Tommy was tall and built, while Joe Pesci is only 5’4. That’s impressive. Overall, I’d say Lorraine Bracco was possibly the best one here. She did an excellent job showing off her range, from naive young jewish girl in love with a confident and popular gentile, to paranoid housewife, to toxic twin with Henry. Unlike Sharon Stone’s performance as Ginger, who is more a woman who is hard to get, Bracco plays a much better “girl next door” who ends up getting eaten up and spat out by this life that she got caught up in.
Character-wise, you see plenty of development, particularly from Henry and Karen Hill. The others basically remain themselves in all scenarios. De Niro and Pesci also did a great job playing 2 characters that you honestly wouldn’t want to have as your friends for very long.
The story itself was incredibly good, and I’ll compare it to the other “road to hell” movies that Martin Scorcese made: I enjoyed this a lot more than Casino, and it does have a little bit more humour…very black, morbid humour…but it’s nowhere near as funny as The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is well paced throughout, is constantly changing and developing, and the Macguffins are all of a violent nature. The domestic fighting is not as raw as Casino, but it’s still vivid, without being overly uncomfortable.
Does the film still appeal to me? I still see what made the film so good to begin with. Outside of the 1st 2 Godfather movies, this is possibly the best Mob movie ever made. But in truth, no, this film is not as appealing as it used to be. Once again, fantastic movie…but it’s possible that I’ve moved on. Maybe I was expecting it to be funnier, and now feel disappointed…Yeah, that’s it.
Overall rating: ****1/2 out of 5