The 1995 classic gambling movie Casino sees director Martin Scorsese returning to tried and tested ground. Moving on from the likes of Cape Fear, or Age of Innocence, this is film that puts Scorsese back on terra firma, and from the very first scenes, fans of his work will feel immediately comfortable. Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and the usual line up of faces make their way onto the bill, in what has become a firm favourite amongst audiences and critics alike.
The film has an intriguing plot, a selection of gangsters, excellent direction, and fantastic performances right across the cast. It’s based albeit loosely on a true story, charting the journey of successful gambler who is recruited to head up a casino in Las Vegas. The near three-hour running time gives a lot of time for the plot lines to fully develop, and along the way, it’s an action packed journey of violence, deceit and power.
So how does Casino stack up, and is it worth the watch? Read on to find out.
The story revolves around the journey of De Niro’s character, Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein. At the beginning of the film, Rothstein is a successful sports handicapper, with some casual ties to the mob. He’s sent to Las Vegas to work under Philip Green, the frontman for the Chicago Outfit – mobster who control the casino. Hotshot Rothstein quickly finds success in his new job, doubling profits and impressing his mobster bosses. As the operation grows, reinforcements are called in, in the form of Nicky Santoro and Frankie Marino.
Meanwhile, De Niro meets and falls for an ex-prostitute, a fiery character more than his match. Her involvement adds complexity to the dynamic between an at-times fraught Sam and Nicky, as well as resulting in a violent beating of a man, Lester Diamond, who had tried to scam some money.
The casino begins to start losing money to theft, with casino staff thought to be scamming the house out of money. Investigations are commenced, and the mob send another manager to oversee proceedings. At the same time, a twist of fortune brings the casino onto the FBI’s radar, as the net starts to close in around the operation. With Sam now thoroughly involved, the investigation is on him.
From there, the story takes several further twists and turns, and always moves at a decent pace – despite the lengthy running time, and the depth of some of the various storylines. Will Sam escape to tell the tale, or will the twin forces of disillusioned mob bosses and an ever-closer snooping FBI finally catch up with ‘Ace’ Rothstein?
If you’re a fan of anything Martin Scorsese has put out, chances are more than likely you’ll find Casino an entertaining watch. Similarly, anyone who enjoys casino films as a rule, or gangster films like Goodfella should check out Casino in more detail.
It’s worth noting that this is a pretty violent film, so there’s a note of caution there. It’s probably not the kind of film you’d sit down to watch with young kids, but it’s a thrilling journey for a Saturday night on – especially if you’re planning to head out to a casino in the wee small hours.
It’s also not for the mild mannered, or the easily offended. This is an honest, gritty depiction of the Las Vegas mob scene, and it’s not all plain sailing for our protagonists. It’s probably not enough to be considered Scorsese’s finest hour, but if you’re into these sorts of films, you’re the kind of person Casino was made for.
The performances from De Niro and Pesci as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein and Nicky Santoro make this film, working in partnership of course with the familiar direction of Scorsese. The plot lines are engaging and entertaining, and the violence throughout will keep you on the edge of your seat. You genuinely will for Rothstein, and as things start to take a turn for the worse, the film excellently ramps up the drama.
There’s not too much new ground here, and it’s unlikely to change your world. But while you probably won’t discover your new favourite film here, it will definitely leave you feeling thoroughly entertained. Worth the time it takes to watch and then some – Casino is nevertheless one of our favourite gambling films of all time.
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