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A movie directed by Martin Scorsese

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Intoxicated portrait of Las Vegas; from both the inside and the outside.

  • Jan 28, 2012
***1/2 out of ****

"Casino" is a fascinating film; in which there are many characters involved who live, breath, and absolutely love money, as well as the things that it can buy and the places that it can get he/she who has as much of it as they use. A few of these people presented in the film may partake in the smoking of cigarettes - or perhaps the consumption of alcoholic beverages - but their home is on The Strip, and their true addiction rests in the slot machines and casinos of Las Vegas.

Based on a non-fiction novel by Nicholas Pilleggi (who had previously collaborated with Scorsese for "Goodfellas"); the film is intended as some sort of in-depth documentation of how Vegas casinos are run - or were once ran - when they were still in their prime. This is the story of the rise and fall of a business partnership, shared between Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) - both of whom are sent to Vegas to work for the mob; more or less shown through their collective eyes. De Niro narrates most of the film; with Pesci occasionally substituting to fill up the gaps in between.

Sam and Nicky seem like polar opposites; the latter is ruthless and free-spirited, while the other is ruthless, but also restrained. It is because of these differences that they get along and enjoy the joys of living life at large while they can; and it's also why the empire that they single-handedly crafted will have to come slowly crashing down some day. It is truly interesting though; watching these people indulge in the pleasures of Vegas - the money, the women, the drugs. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if one of these wise guys took a look in the mirror at the end of the film and asked where - just where - they lost their way in life.

A common theme that is prevalent throughout Martin Scorsese's (the writer and director) work is the role of women in these broad, epic tales of organized crime. In "Casino", a romance that Sam shares with an ex-prostitute named Ginger (Sharon Stone) serves as a side-distraction. Ginger is able to effortlessly act as a human tornado; slowly forcing the lives of those around her to deteriorate. One moment, she's madly in love with Sam, and he's madly in love with her; in another, she's yelling at him furiously and threatening murder.

By the time the film has ended, I think it's safe to say that just about every character has found themselves at the mercy of money, the greed that comes with too much of it, and the complications of both life and a strong, life-long adoration for anything. Each individual character is searching for power; they hunger for it, even if they always seem to have it. Simply put, they want more; and they will get more. Sam is fine with his station in life, Nicky is a bit of a wild child, and diamonds are Ginger's best friend. It is their very greed that breaks them apart; and it's the momentary happiness that tends to accompany such a thing as that which keeps them together as long as it does.

While it's not his best film, "Casino" always feels like a Martin Scorsese film should. It's very cinematic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes very violent (it's common for Scorsese never to sugarcoat anything; much less violence itself), and always immensely entertaining. Sure, it has flaws that keep it just one note off from perfection; such as a noticeable sense of repetition, a script that falls just a little short of some of the best Scorsese has worked with, and a plot that is almost meant to polarize audiences. Many say that this is far from a Scorsese masterpiece; and in a sense, I have to both agree and disagree. This is a very good film no matter how you put it; and a very approximate recreation of Las Vegas as a city of sin and temporary delights.

This is easily the most visually complex film that Scorsese has done thus far; in which he employs a lot of techniques that he seldom has worked with before. Here, you shall see Dutch angles; insanely fast editing; and lights galore, all typical of cinema that takes place in Vegas. In my opinion, Scorsese did his best to recreate the look and feel of the city; and with all due respect, he's done one of the best jobs making a movie set look like Vegas that I've seen. Scorsese has a tendency to work his magic like that; so I wasn't surprised.

Throw in excellent performances all across the board (Stone, in particular, is riveting); and you've got yourself a Vegas classic. Yeah, I don't absolutely love it as much as I absolutely love "Taxi Driver", "Goodfellas", and many more films that Scorsese has directed; but what the hell, right? "Casino" is exploding with charisma, energy, and boundless information. There never seems to be a moment when Scorsese isn't committed to shedding light on each and every little detail of the story that he's telling; and that, my friends, is passion. And if Scorsese's "passion" is ever lost, well, then that's when he'll stop being a great filmmaker. I'm tempted to laugh at the thought.

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More Casino (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
Excellent Movie... Joe Pesci was the best in this movie... it gets really crazy!
review by . July 15, 2007
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Pros: So that's what happens to my money... Interesting. Very interesting indeed     Cons: One gallon of blood... Two gallons... Three gallons... Alright, on to the next victim!     The Bottom Line: Like the uncensored version? See the censored version on USA!!! It's FUNNY!!!     In the last ten years, Martin Scorsese’s reputation as “America’s Greatest Living Filmmaker” really hit the skids, didn’t it? After the gangster …
review by . August 09, 2006
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I have seen this film to many times to count and I am yet to become even remotely sick of it. The acting is flawless, story flows at a great pace from the hours it generates on the screen. Fans of Scorsese, DeNiro, and Pesci should already know what this film consist of. The leading actors mention above, are all at their usual greatness, but the pleasant surprise from this movie is the electrifying performance by Sharon Stone, (who won a Golden Globe award and got an Oscar nomination for her role) …
review by . June 24, 2003
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This movie seems to have everything a great story requires: a colorful setting, fascinating characters, an action-filled plot sustained by a multiple of tensions and conflicts, and all manner of revelations about the uses and abuses of power in the casino world of Las Vegas. What makes this movie especially interesting to me is the sub texture of individual characters (especially those played by DeNiro and Stone) who seem to be torn between various addictions and the demands of those addictions …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Martin Scorsese, one of America's most influential filmmakers, returns to the world of mobsters, greed, and excess that he explored so compellingly in 1990's GOODFELLAS. Set in the 1970s and reveling in the minute details of how Las Vegas casinos operate, the film chronicles the rise and fall of casino manager Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro). As the king of his domain, Ace efficiently runs the business and regularly sends lots of cold cash to his bosses. Helping him keep the casino's employees and customers honest is his best friend, Nicky (Joe Pesci), a violent sociopath. Although Ace aims to run a relatively respectable casino, the volatile Nicky wants to take over the entire gambling mecca, and when Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a seasoned Vegas hustler, enters the picture, Ace and Nicky's friendship is complicated even further. As drugs and alcohol become a bigger part of Ginger's life, all three are eventually brought down by their own greed and blind ambition. CASINO shares many similarities with G...
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