Casino

Review No. 457

The odds of you enjoying “Casino” are four-to-one.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi
Based on: “Casino” by Nicholas Pileggi
Narrated by: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent
Sam “Ace” Rothstein: Robert De Niro
Ginger McKenna Rothstein: Sharon Stone
Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro: Joe Pesci
Also Starring: Alan King, Bill Allison, Dick Smothers, Don Rickles, Frank Vincent, James Woods, John Bloom, Joseph Rigano, Kevin Pollak, L. Q. Jones, Nobu Matsuhisa, Pasquale Cajano, Philip Suriano, Richard Riehle, Vinny Vella

Distributed by Universal Pictures on November 22, 1995. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 178 mins. Rated R by the MPAA–mature themes, frequent profanity, graphic violence, substance abuse, infrequent sexual situations (edited from NC-17).

Casino was watched on March 29, 2013.

“In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing, and keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose. In the end, we get it all.” –Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro)

Casino is an engaging saga about the blind allure of crime. It’s not an original story in Martin Scorsese’s canon, but it’s one that doesn’t seem to get old, either. This story focuses squarely on a man named Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro). He’s an aggressive, arrogant, ruthless fellow running a casino without any sort of gaming license–and making sure his gang is the one with the money when the night comes to a close. And in the casino area, the question he struggles to weasel his way around is, “What if the authorities find out?”

Yet this is one of several problems we’re told about in Rothstein’s life. Most of his problems he creates himself, something even we don’t realize immediately. He hires Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) as his subordinate. But by the time he realizes how many stabs in the back he’s taken from this impulsive man, it’s too late to try and save himself. He falls in love with Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), a woman about half his age, the moment he lays eyes on her. In a matter of a few years, he’s her possessive husband, and she’s his avaricious wife.

I may as well get my one and only complaint out of the way. You’ve probably heard that Casino is too long or that it drags, but I felt its one flaw was irrelevant to length. Like the previous crime classic from writer-director Scorsese and writer-author Pileggi (based on a nonfiction book by the latter), the film chronicles a long ten years through multiple pairs of eyes. Unlike the previous effort, the effect feels a bit misleading.

Casino is a drama that uses brilliant character development and powerhouse acting to keep a clutch on your attention. It’s difficult to feel these three hours passing by, but it’s even more difficult to realize that Rothstein is the man we’re rooting for, despite his cunning criminal spirit. In fact, he can be identified as Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, one of Las Vegas’s most notorious, villainous men. And yet it’s impossible not to love him. What’s even more stunning is that we begin to side with him as the story progresses. We grow to hate Santoro (who was based on Anthony Spilotro, no more or less a criminal in any sense of the word) as well as Ginger (even though it’s possible her life wouldn’t have sat in ruins if it weren’t for Rothstein).

Let’s just say it comes as a tenebrous surprise that Casino marked the last time Scorsese collaborated with Pileggi or De Niro.

A MINUS

TOMORROW, ON CINEMANIAC REVIEWS…

Cape Fear

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7 thoughts on “Casino

    • Can’t argue with you on that one. Scorsese’s such a fantastic director, so for every decade since the 1960s, he’s made at least one (usually two or more!) films that make a universal “best of the decade” list.

      Nice to see you around here again!

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