Casino (1995)

A crime epic very much in the style of GOODFELLAS. Where GOODFELLAS covered a more classical rise and fall, CASINO is almost a picaresque. Characters are a lot more static, and a broader theme of systemic corruption plays out, not just in the violent theatrics, but smaller-scale nepotistic concerns and the like. Things are gaudier than in GOODFELLAS, thanks to the Las Vegas setting and time period, which fits the common Scorsese ending note of ‘things were bad, but they were colourful, and what came next was sanitised and dim’. Other Scorsese consistencies – De Niro, Pesci, hefty doses of voiceover narration, GIMME SHELTER and other such songs, surprising outbursts of violence, interrogation of machismo – make their appearances as well.

A lot of the black humour of the film comes from how static the characters are. When things eventually go south, it’s not because of Joe Pesci’s characters ceaseless violence, it’s because of a random bookkeeper issue. This kind of thing dances around comedy when it comes to De Niro’s character’s cyclical relationship with Sharon Stone’s character. Some of the film’s more nuanced moments come out of that relationship, such as an appeal setting aside romantic conceptions of love, instead focusing on foundations of mutual respect that one ‘could live with’.

A striking visual element was the somewhat jarring use of dissolves across the same takes, during a character’s wordless expression, during tracking shots around objects, and even establishing shots inside a casino. It’s an odd effect, but works for the jittery tone of the film. Ultimately, for all the appeal of the setting and level of detail, the whole thing ends up feeling like a more opaque redux of GOODFELLAS. But that still makes for a fine film. Three and a half poker chips, and $25000.

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