Scorsese’s Casino is an overwhelming one from him – but for how much it sprawls through in order to run the three hour running time it carries but never is it a bore. After Goodfellas it was only fitting that Martin Scorsese would come together with writer Nicholas Pileggi once again but this time for something much bigger and while it may not necessarily be the better film from their collaborations, what they have formed through Casino is indeed one of Scorsese’s finest achievements as of yet. In some ways it may be Scorsese’s answer to Francis Coppola’s The Godfather for it signifies a greatness calling back to such a work through the large scale of events.
Many of course would jump on to saying Casino is indeed Martin Scorsese playing upon Goodfellas once again for the similarities between the two can come abroad – the structure, actors, the true story behind what is already being dramatized, and writer – but to dismiss it as such is plainly ignorant for what Scorsese does even with what is already familiar territory is something grander on the spot. Casino takes the gangster life into Las Vegas, and tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (based on Frank Rosenthal) – a mobster who has made a living through gambling and ran numerous casinos forming an empire for himself. From there it only goes into more indulgences which fuel what Scorsese has created but it is never indulgent in the manner it bogs the work down but rather it adds more to why such a piece is ever as effective as it is, for Scorsese never holds back in here.
Scorsese’s piece indeed carries back towards Goodfellas but at the same time he utilizes the methods he mastered to go back into familiar material in order to create a different story to carry its own importance through Casino. Goodfellas, while it was a film that is important in itself within what it has left upon the crime genre during its time, there’s a great significance that Casino leaves behind similarly for it uses what methods Scorsese mastered from exploring the criminal underbelly from one perspective in Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill to show greater detail for the lifestyle by looking from more lenses at the same time. It could easily have been a means of dragging out the film’s length to an incredible degree but it only fits perfectly for such a piece.
In Casino, Scorsese has created a much more brutal work than his usual and at the same time it’s a much more excessive piece by comparison but in a sense it is capturing the lifestyle of characters whose stories he is wishing to tell. There are many stories that can be told within such a world, going from tragedies to occasional comedies to the more brutal roots when watching everything unfold over in such a city and what Scorsese creates is an indulgent piece that delves into how truly sleazy a world that presents itself as glorious can truly ever be when looking deeper behind the picture: creating a more untamed work at hand. Every action from every character adds more to the sleaziness of such an epic and it hints towards what Scorsese has already familiarized himself with and turned out something else deeper down.
Maybe the greatest thing to have even come out from Casino, however, would be how Scorsese is establishing a specific toxicity with the environment of Las Vegas which sets in tone the atmosphere of such a work. One that allows its own length to be felt but in the sense that it overwhelms a viewer with an entirely new atmosphere that they have never found themselves looking within. Every character is sleazy to some degree with the performances and narration adding more effect to the work being created. It doesn’t become a film about gangsters within their lifestyle anymore as opposed to a work about what had driven them away from what they had loved most, their greed, cruelty, and abuse – as shown by the lack of empathy in its defining figures.
Casino could very well be Martin Scorsese’s The Godfather – not in the sense that it looks upon criminal families but in the sense that it builds an entire atmosphere out of the indulgence from the gangster’s lifestyle. Aside from that, it’s impressive looking at what more Casino establishes therein which makes for something so incredible at hand. Comparisons to Goodfellas are set to come in but it only makes sense when talking about the aesthetic created because Casino tells a whole other story of a different world, one which is much less tamer than most portraits of organized crime from such an era. Sharon Stone is simply at her best, just as Scorsese is indeed achieving what truly is his most indulgent and one of his most remarkable.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi, from the book by Pileggi
Produced by Barbara De Fina
Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, Don Rickles, Kevin Pollak, James Woods
Release Year: 1995
Running Time: 178 minutes