1995, Movie, R, 182 mins


Martin Scorsese returns to the gangster milieu of GOODFELLAS, and the result is an accomplished film that carries with it the unshakable feeling that we've seen it all before.

Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is a scientific gambler. Looking to get their piece of booming 1960s Las Vegas, the Kansas City Mafia installs him as manager of the Tangiers, where he lives up to his respectful but unaffectionate nickname, "The Golden Jew." The film's first third is a celebration of pre-theme park Vegas, the money-making machine and morality car wash, where the cash flow never dries up and acts that would be criminal anywhere else are the coin of the realm. The serpent in this tawdry Garden of Eden soon appears in the form of Ace's old friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who begins busting heads and drawing unwanted attention to the Mafia's pervasive presence. The third point of an ultimately deadly triangle is Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) a hooker with a heart of, well ... stone.

There's nothing really wrong with CASINO. In fact, there are lots of things right with it: the city in the desert has seldom looked so thrillingly sleazy (the grotesquerie of '70s fashions is a delightfully horrifying bonus), and the story delivers its old-fashioned moral (you reap what you sow) with such delirious viciousness that you almost forget what a dreary cliche it is.

Nevertheless, CASINO feels disturbingly predictable, a meticulous and coldly proficient going-over of familiar ground. After MEAN STREETS, GOODFELLAS, THE GODFATHER and countless other examinations of Mafia mores and morals, we don't need to be reminded that the mob-run gambling industry is a microcosm of American capitalism at its most rapacious. We know, we know. leave a comment

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