Casino (1995) / Drama-Thriller

MPAA rated: R for strong brutal violence, pervasive strong language, drug use and some sexuality
Length: 170 min.

Cast: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, Dick Smothers, L.Q. Jones, Frank Vincent
Small role: Frankie Avalon, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Jerry Vale

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Nicholas Pileggi (based on his book), Martin Scorsese
Review published January 23, 1999

Based on a true story (although the names have been changed), this tells the tale of Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro, A Bronx Tale), a Jewish gambler with an incredible knack for bet-handicapping. His help with mob bosses inspires trust in him and he is sent to Las Vegas to manage a large Casino. While there, a ruthless mafioso named Nicky Santoro (Pesci, With Honors) decides to make Vegas his new home, and his reckless behavior brings much heat to the day-to-day operations of the casino. Meanwhile, Sam marries a seductive hustler (Stone, The Quick and the Dead), a beautiful woman of whom he is unsure if she wants his love or his money.

Casino is a tour-de-force of acting and directing, both of which are spectacular in the Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence, Cape Fear) and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, City Hall) vision of Las Vegas. Three hours long and not a bad performance, uncompelling scene or misguided directorial style in the mix. Casino is a very dark and violent film, but there are moments of humor to liven up the mood and some fascinating subplots that tie in to the main theme beautifully.

It's astounding to look back on this film and realize that it garnered only one Academy Award nomination (Sharon Stone) when this has some of the best directing, sets, costumes, and cinematography I've seen in a movie of recent years. I think coming off of two inferior films by Scorsese standards (Cape Fear and The Age of Innocence) that cooled off Scorsese's reputation in the eyes of Academy Award voters and Casino was overlooked.

Some may carp at the excessive length and ultraviolent scenes, but there's no denying the quality piece of work that Casino is. It may forever be overshadowed by its predecessor in theme Goodfellas, but it should be regarded as another great film in the distinguished career of Scorsese.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo