Saturday, January 9, 2010
There's a scene in 'Goodfellas' when the central character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) witnesses fellow gangster Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) nonchalantly shoot a young man to his death. Henry is the only one to run over and check on the kid after he 's shot. He's in shock that Tommy killed him, almost like it was just target practice. This scene is one of the movie's finest because it shows that Henry has seen an idealized version of the mob life. Though he refuses to admit it, he knows in his heart that happiness can't be found in the mob. Because men like Tommy are a part of it. 'Goodfellas' humanizes the Mafia. It doesn't stereotype its members. It shows us multiple sides of the characters, especially Henry, who is probably also meant to be a portrait of how young people are swept into the world of crime because 'you can get anything.' But in the end 'Goodfellas' reminds us you can't get 'everything.' The movie is directed by Martin Scorsese, who both respects the crime genre and also adds a new spin to it. He does what he wants fearlessly and the result is a riveting masterpiece and his finest work behind only 'Taxi Driver.' Besides Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, the cast includes Scorsese's favorite, Robert DeNiro as the hot shot gangster and mentor to Henry and Lorraine Bracco as Henry's wife. It's a flawless set of players and they all capture a great deal of life to the characters they embody. 'Goodfellas' has been called the 'king of mob movies' (excluding 'The Godfather,' which is sort of in a class of its own) and indeed it is. It struck me as the finest portrait of gangster life ever filmed. But it also doesn't stray into slow, moody territory like 'Godfather' does. It keeps the audience in mind and makes sure to keep a quick pace. Also, the almost constant use of classic pop songs helps out.