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Casino (1995)

casino

Casino (1995) – Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobster best friends and a trophy wife over a gambling empire.

Year of Release: 1995

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast:

Robert De Niro – Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein
Sharon Stone – Ginger McKenna
Joe Pesci – Nicky Santoro
James Woods – Lester Diamond
Don Rickles – Billy Sherbert
Alan King – Andy Stone
Kevin Pollack – Phillip Green

I thought I should write about the first movie I ever saw that really grabbed hold of me and demanded my attention. Sure, I had seen plenty of kids movies before this, but the day I accidentally walked in on Casino changed the way I viewed films and gave me an appreciation for something that I can’t imagine ever losing. For anyone who hasn’t read my About Me page, the name for my blog came from the scene in which Joe Pesci’s character ‘Nicky’ decides the best way to get information from someone is to put their head in a vice. I walked in one this exact scene and here I am many years later writing a blog named after it.

vice scene

Exact scene I walked in on…..

As for the actual film, Casino is a 1995 crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. The two previously collaborated on the 1990 film Goodfellas. Casino is about a gambling prodigy called Sam (Ace) Rothstein, played to perfection by De Niro, who supervised a thriving hotel casino in its glory days. He is more of a number-cruncher than the swaggering mobster he portrayed in Goodfellas. So Ace depended on the protection of his vicious best friend, Nicky Santoro, superbly portrayed by Joe Pesci.

de niro and pesci

Nicky & Ace

Ace was so good that whenever he made a bet, he could change the odds for every bookmaker in the country. This is how he got into the life, by being a genius at what he was doing with numbers, he proved to a lot of guys in the Chicago Mafia that he was a tremendous earner and therefore he could make a lot of money for them. Seeing the logic in his argument, the mob back home decided to set Ace up with his own casino and run it from under the protection of those guys. With his friend Nicky by his side, nothing can go wrong, surely!? Enter Sharon Stone as Ginger. In a role that won her a ‘Best Actress‘ nomination at the Oscars, she toys with Ace’s heart and despite marrying him and giving him a child, she never loved him and set out to take what she could whilst keeping her ex-junkie boyfriend Lester happy. The story unravels and friendships are tested, ultimately deceit and greed overcome everything and we get a thrilling journey with a superb ending.

sharon stone casino

The beautiful Ginger

At over 3 hours it is not a short film, but time flies every time I watch it and it’s something I watch at least once a year. It really is such a great movie. The performances are practically perfect, and directed by the master that is Scorsese, Casino really deserves to be seen. Flashy 1970’s costumes, a terrific score and beautiful images throughout, it really is a masterpiece. I can’t believe it is 18 years old, and re-watching it again now on Blu Ray it still looks so good. Sure, there are probably better looking explosions and more realistic looking dead bodies in more modern films, but this doesn’t detract at all from what Casino offers.

Casino 3

It is a violent film, but most of the violence is brief, aside from a scene in the cornfields that is, which is heartbreaking and brutal. That was also the only time I felt any sympathy for Nicky (SPOILER – and typically as a Sopranos fan it was that scumbag who turned on him!) There is also some brief drug use and lots of swearing. The word ‘fuck‘ is said 422 times, including in the narration – 2.4 times per minute on average. The film used to hold the Guinness world record for the most swearing in a film.

casino cornfield

Cornfields always remind me of this scene…..

With Pesci and De Niro turning up again in a Scorsese film, it might seem on the surface that Casino is just Goodfellas in Las Vegas, but this would be an unfair and naive assumption, which disregards the true story on which the film is based. It also features a dual narrative, with both De Niro and Pesci’s characters providing their versions of events in alternating voice-overs. This device works brilliantly, adding a real layer of depth. It also makes the unfolding fates of the two protagonists all the more curious to the audience, especially as the film opens with someone getting blown up in a car.

Casino12

Like his collaborator Nicholas Pileggi, an author famous for his mobster obsession, Scorsese makes these films, not because of the kudos that surrounds such characters or because gangster films are cool, but because of a genuine fascination for that lifestyle and the quality of the stories that arise out of it. Such passion shines through in Casino, a masterfully directed, acted and edited epic which confidently takes its time in telling its story because, like Vegas itself, it knows that it will dazzle and seduce you.

casino de niro and scorsese

Scorsese & De Niro

In closing, I’m sure I haven’t even come close to doing Casino justice with my words. It really has to be seen to be appreciated. As a huge De Niro fan it’s also a reminder how good he can be. Younger readers may only know De Niro from the ‘Meet the Parents‘ franchise, or some of his more recent supporting role performances, but I implore you to check out the master in one of his last truly great roles. I would definitely rank Casino higher than 164th place. Whilst my guest contributors give out perfect scores like they are going out of fashion (or like a Film Hipster!) a 10/10 rating is something I have never given a film. Yet. There are a couple in existence which I will review very soon. Casino comes close, like a 95% or something, but not quite the full 10 heads in vices.

Ratings010

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75 Comments

  1. Great movie but I think Ginger detracts from the rest of the story. I just find her annoying.

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  2. I’ve only seen this once and about 5 years ago. I need to revisit! I remember being blown away by the style of it, and especially the costumes, which I was lucky enough to see last year at the V&A Museum in London at their Hollywood Film Exhibition. Also, ‘Grats on the nipper, too.

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    • You definitely need to revisit!! 🙂

      Thats cool you got to see the costumes, they are certainly something special!! Especially Ace’s pink suit. Thanks buddy 🙂

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  3. 🙂 Awesome! I like how the scene shaped the site so to speak!

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    • Exactly, who knew letting me in that room all those years ago would warp me into the human I am today! Thanks Zoe 🙂

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  4. theipc

     /  May 22, 2013

    Very nice, my friend!!!! Good to hear from you!!

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    • Thanks buddy. Yeah, taken a back seat for a while but now I need to get back on it and watch some crappy horrors 🙂

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  5. Tyson, It’s interesting to hear just how much you love Casino. I agree that it has a lot going for it, particularly the direction from Scorsese and the acting from De Niro. He does some really interesting things with the structure and multiple narrators, and there’s plenty to enjoy. I’m glad it played such a big role in your development. That said, it does tend to lose me in the middle act. The main issue comes from the Sharon Stone character. She does a good acting job, but the writing lets her down and doesn’t develop in an interesting way for me. I still think it’s a strong movie overall and can’t argue with anyone who loves it, but it didn’t totally work on the level of Goodfellas. I also think part of the issue was seeing it after totally falling for that movie. There was no way it was going to be on the same level for me.

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    • Thats a fair argument Dan. I see where your coming from, and Goodfellas is one movie which will/would get the perfect score from me. Maybe thats why I loved Casino so much, reminded me so much of Goodfellas.

      I didn’t mind Stone here, and whilst it’s a shame it didn’t quite work for you at least we both love Goodfellas!!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts buddy, always appreciated 🙂

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  6. A still highly undervalued Scorsese film. Well done 🙂

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    • Definitely is, the amount of times I read people being dismissive of it makes me mad. Glad you agree! Cheers Michael 🙂

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  7. Casino IS awesome. I can see how the Tony Dogs scene would have left quite an impression on you at a young age. LOL It’s… a memorable scene. I always figured that was why you named your site what you did, its nice to have confrimation now. 😀

    Pesci gives Frank Vincent a beating in Raging Bull, too. So, after Raging Bull and Goodfellas, the finale here was his revenge. LOL

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    • Very impressionable age! Yeah, I put a little piece about it on my about me page, but figured I re-do this and clarify it. 🙂

      Ah, I had forgotten that beating, good shout. Vincent maybe deserves his revenge! Cheers Fogs 🙂

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  8. Excellent post, as always man.

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  9. Nice review. I still haven’t seen Casino yet sadly, one of the few Scorsese movies I have not watched. I ordered a copy recently and hope to see it soon.

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  10. Great review. Personally, I wouldn’t put this up there with Scorcese’s best… but it’s an excellent film. And yet another one to add to the ‘must re-watch’ list!

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    • Aside from Goodfellas I wouldn’t put much higher. What beats it for you?

      Always a must watch film, at least once a year! Thanks buddy 🙂

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      • I’d go Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Age of Innocence as my favourite of his (I know, I’m surprised that I love Age of Innocence too!). I’d put Casino just behind those, along with King of Comedy.

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        • Yeah, that is a surprise and unique choice! The man has made so many incredible films though, hard to pick a favourite 🙂

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  11. Probably De Niro’s last great role. And you should name your baby ‘Ace’!

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    • Age catches up with the greats eventually! Whilst not a lead at least he has some decent stuff lined up too.

      Ill suggest Ace to the wife 😉

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  12. Great review. I always feel I should love this movie but I don’t, nor do I know why I don’t. It seems flat to me. It never grabs me. I never feel involved. I’ve seen it a few times and always had the same reaction, or lack thereof. It has great credentials. Scorcese is a great director and Casino has a fantastic cast. It just leaves me cold.

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    • I feel like that with some films, Blade Runner for instance. Can’t explain it but just didnt work for me. Thanks anyway Marilyn 🙂

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  13. garryarmstrong

     /  May 22, 2013

    Top shelf review — as usual — on movie with wonderful cast that should’ve been better. I echo Marilyn’s (Teepee12) take on this flick. I think everyone was in familiar territory and didn’t flex their chops enough to take it to a higher level. I would be remiss in not mentioning Alan King. Primarily known as a stand up comedian, he did some very fine dramatic work.

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    • I hear what you’re both saying, I just loved every minute of it. Shame it didn’t work for you guys more. Can’t always agree I guess! Cheers Garry 🙂

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  14. Great review, Tyson! This one is my favorite Scorsese film! So damn good!

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  15. Ryan

     /  May 22, 2013

    This movie has one of the funniest scenes in any movie, when the Feds run out of gas…their quick “don’t look at us, we’re not here” run away cracked me the hell up.

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  16. excellent post! I’m a little ashamed to say i’ve not seen this one yet – i’ll get on it asap!

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  17. Well done Tyson, you did the film justice. However, it deserves a perfect 10 Heads out of ten. 😉

    Can you believe Don Rickles is still alive?!?

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    • So close to a 10, but not quite. You know what will be getting the 10 though 😉

      Is he really?? Man he looked old 18 years ago, I’m gonna have to google what he looks like now.

      Thanks Chris 🙂

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  18. Ah so THAT’s how you got your blog name 😀

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    • Now you know ALL my secrets Ruth 😉

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      • Y’know, I actually knew about the origin of your name from another blogger who reviewed Casino, I think it might’ve been Fogs or Mark. Until then I had no idea where you got the name, ahah.

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        • I think it was Mark, I remember that vaguely. But yeah, even though it’s on my ‘about me’ page, I know I barely read other peoples so dont expect everyone to have seen mine. I figured this post gave me the opportunity to share a little more of myself and influences with you beautiful readers 🙂

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  19. Great movie, brings back memories of lots of adult beverages. Didn’t this movie win best costumes something?

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    • Not sure about the costumes, I know it won for various things at certain awards. The costumes were fantastic though so if it didnt win it should have!!!

      Cheers Marc 🙂

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      • Apparently, Stone won a Golden Globes for best actress for Casino. Basically, though there were other first-billed names; she was the actual star of the film. She deserved to win & got it.

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  20. Nice to see you tackle this one bro. I completely agree on your rating as well. I gave it 4.5 in my recent review. Fabulous film that’s unfairly compared to Goodfellas. Love DeNiro in this also. He underplays it to perfection.

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    • Yeah, just not quite the full score rating wise is it. So close though! Nice that we agree for a change after the LOVE debacle 😉

      De Niro was so good here, and I agree the comparisons are unfair and Casino deserves more credit.

      Cheers Mark 🙂

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  21. Nice one TC. 🙂 I only just saw this movie a month or so ago – really enjoyed it.

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  22. This is my biggest Scorsese blindspot by a mile, really need to get this watched. Nice post man.

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  23. davecrewe

     /  May 23, 2013

    I enjoy Casino, but I obviously don’t love it as much as you! It’s hard to put my finger on what exactly is lacking in this film for me (since the acting and direction are so clearly top-notch), but when I put its big brother Goodfellas on, I’m completely gripped for the entirety of the film. Casino tends to lose me in the middle … I don’t have a problem with long films, but Casino just feels very long to me – I think a tighter edit of the film would work better for me (especially as sometimes the same basic plot points are just bashed into the audience’s head through the narration and action onscreen).

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    • You’re not the first person I’ve heard say things along those lines. I guess seeing it so early and young always gives me nostalgic blind spots to it, and I’ll always be grateful to that day walking in and seeing it.

      Cheers Dave 🙂

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  24. Great movie. Greater backstory to this blog’s inception!

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  25. Popcorn Nights

     /  May 23, 2013

    Nice review Tyson. This is a great film. It’s a shame in a way that so many people compare it with Goodfellas. Stone, De Niro and Pesci are all magnificent. Enjoyed the James Woods character too!

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  26. So, you’re saying you like this movie? 😉

    It’s been a long while since I’ve seen this one, and I’ve only seen it once, so sadly all I remember is someone’s car getting blown up with somebody inside. I guess that means I should probably re-watch it again soon, huh? And if we’re naming websites after scenes from films we stumbled upon, then I guess my site should be called Three Torched Townspeople, since I remember as a kid walking in on an early scene from the original War of the Worlds when my Dad was watching it on television!

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    • Erm…..yeah I kinda liked it 😉

      Thats a nice story Todd, you should re-name your blog right now!!!

      Thanks buddy 🙂

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  27. Good review! I count Martin Scorsese among my favorite directors, and he certainly didn’t disappoint with this movie.

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  28. Still better than Goodfellas.

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  1. Guestblog: Head In A Vice | Erotixx

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