- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
asily the most influential director of his generation, Martin Scorsese has a resume that most filmmakers would kill for. "Casino," the director's grand return to the mob genre, is a prime example of why he's so highly regarded by his peers, and more than a decade later, it still kills. Starring a knockout cast led by Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, "Casino" is just as physically and emotionally bruising as "Goodfellas," but this time highlighted under the bright neon lights of Las Vegas.
Set on The Strip in the late 1970's and early 80's, "Casino" exposes the true story behind the mob's invasion of Las Vegas, their thriving operation, and the eventual downfall that resulted in the big, corporate-run casinos of present day. Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro) is a hotshot gambler known around town for his ability to make winners out of losers. When the Midwest mob needs a reliable wise guy to run their newest acquisition, the Tangiers Hotel and Casino, they call on Ace, who they've branded the Golden Jew. Ace shows his dedication to his new job with perfection, going so far as to scream at the hotel chef to include an equal amount of blueberries in every muffin. Joining him in Vegas is childhood friend and casino muscle, Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a psychotic sparkplug who resorts to using pens as weapons.
Ace and Nicky are at the top of their game when the former meets Ginger (Sharon Stone), a well-respected hustler and ex-prostitute in the casino world. Despite warning him that she really has no interest in marriage, Ace still pops the question with the belief that love comes with time. It turns out that Ginger is a raging drug user and alcoholic, and as the incessant screaming and beating between the two leads to their eventual decline, Nicky manages to only make matters worse.
It's frustrating to watch as the story slowly becomes less about the crime syndicate and more about the brusque love triangle that eats up the final hour of the film. Once the relationships between these three begin to sever, it's very difficult to care about what happens to any of the characters. It's essentially this unsavory section of the film that makes "Casino" one of the lesser Scorsese drama, though you really can't blame the actors, who all perform flawlessly in their respective roles.
What's great about "Casino," though, is Scorsese's fantastic talent to display the habitual mobster violence with a style of raw detail that lends to the overall authenticity of the project. Equally impressive is his use of music throughout the entire film, which follows the chronological timeline with the biggest hits of those certain years. "Casino" doesn't achieve the same level of cinematic excellence as "Goodfellas," "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull," but when compared to a majority of the other films of that particular decade, "Casino" is A-grade filmmaking at its best.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
As one-third of Universal’s new Gangster Collection, it’s nice to see that the Blu-ray release of “Casino” isn’t just a copy of the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD. For starters, an audio commentary of sorts (dubbed “Moments with Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone and Nicholas Pillegi) has finally been included, and though it’s mostly just edited bits from previously recorded interviews, it’s still nice to have some audio to play over the movie. Additionally, a new picture-in-picture video track has been created compiling all of the behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the previous release, while the short reel of deleted scenes, the NBC News special “Vegas and The Mob,” and the new History Channel featurette on author/co-writer Nicholas Pillegi (“History Alive: True Crime Authors”) rounds out the set.