Ace bookie and professional gambler Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is sent to Las Vegas in the early 1970s by his mafia bosses to run the popular landmark casino, the Tangiers. Accompanying him to this land of riches is his hot-headed childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a made man and notorious stand-over guy. With the two friends eagerly trying to control the city by their own methods: Sam through legitimate business and Nicky through strong-arming and organised crime. Tensions between the two become strained. But when one-time casino hustler and Sam's wife Ginger (Sharon Stone) begins to play the two of them off against each other, as well as causing major headaches by striking up a relationship with her former lover Lester Diamond (James Woods), their world of riches and power begins to implode, risking everything they have created as well as their own lives.
Review by Craig Miller:
Owing is a part of life. You may owe money, owe a friend a favour or just owe yourself a break. But sometimes owing can be a very good thing indeed and when, in the early 1990s, director Martin Scorsese owed a picture to Universal studios, he paid them off by re-uniting with his Goodfellas team and delivering one of the most under-rated films of the decade; Casino.
Having already made two quintessential gangs and guns crime dramas, the 1973 classic Mean Streets and the 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas, director Martin Scorsese was taking something of a chance revisiting this territory with Casino but, it's thanks to Scorsese's familiarity with the genre that it works so well.
There is no glorification of mob life or sense that any of the characters are justified in their horrific actions. This is truth, plain and simple. Based on Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction book of the same name (Pileggi also penned the book that Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas was adapted from), Casino is based on the true events surrounding the mob control of the casinos and Las Vegas during the 1970s and 80s.
Thematically a strong follow-up to Goodfellas, a look at a world of excess and the corruptible nature of power, Casino does have some noticeable similarities with Scorsese' early mob flicks, but these connections only make it that much more powerful.
It's an intoxicating world Scorsese first introduces as to; the money, the power, the luxurious lifestyles; but his trademark violence jolts you in and out of this superficial world so quickly and so regularly it's all but impossible to miss the real point he is trying to get across: Where there's that much money, there's always going to be trouble.
The set design and art production are outstanding. Everything from the glittering Vegas casino strips through to the terrifically gaudy 1970s soft furnishings and clothing is meticulously re-created, adding further power and atmosphere to the already convincing proceedings.
Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, the Goodfellas connection, are superb and even Sharon Stone, in arguably her best performance, brings it all to the table, every bit the match of her on-screen partners.
From a collector's point of view, this two-disc tenth anniversary edition is a little disappointing. It's a must own because of the power of the film, with Scorsese in his element, but this celebratory release just doesn't quite cut it with the included bonus material.
The commentary track featuring Scorsese, Sharon Stone and Nicholas Pileggi among others, is a sporadic affair and the majority of the info covered can be seen and heard amid the interview section of the disc's main featurettes. It's a lazy attempt to include a commentary and, knowing just how much Scorsese has to offer from a filmmaking point of view it's a real shame the services of this exquisite filmmaker were not utilized.
The production featurettes are typical DVD fare, including interviews with cast and crew superficially discussing the film and their love of "Marty"; Sharon Stone gets teary and overly mushy about the opportunity Scorsese afforded her on this picture, and the deleted scenes package offers standard cut and trimmed scenes with no commentary or notes for context.
The two documentaries are the best additions. The first is a brief news report of the Mob in Vegas and the second, an above average 45 minute History Channel doco on author Nicholas Pileggi and how the book and film came to be.
Everyone raves about Scorsese; actors, audiences, critics. I'm sure gaffers and grips think he's great too; and why? Well it's because he knows movies. Actually, he IS movies and the majority of his films are all class. Casino may not be Scorsese at his absolute best, but it's still Scorsese. A powerful look at personal greed and corruptibility, its familiar territory for the master but, really, nobody does these gangs and guns movies better that Scorsese. Nobody.
Published August 25, 2005
Email this article
CASINO: DVD (R)
CAST: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Don Rickles, Kevin Pollack, Alan King
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SCRIPT: Martin Scorsese & Nicholas Pileggi
RUNNING TIME: 179 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.45:1, Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Filmmaker's commentary, Production featurettes, Deleted scenes, Vegas and the Mob featurette, History Alive: True Crime Authors documentary.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: August 17, 2005