Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Casino shows us the rise, corruption, and fall of the mob in Las Vegas back in the 70's and 80's. It takes an uncompromising look at sin city, a term that, while usually applied to the customers, can in this case also be connected to the inside management. Robert De Niro plays a man called Ace Rothstein, who's expertise at the casinos prompts the mob to hire him as the boss of a major Vegas casino. Other major characters include dangerous mobster and childhood friend of Ace, Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and Rothstein's alluring but deceiving wife Ginger, played by Sharon Stone. Martin Scorsese is operating on ultra-safe grounds here. The style, tone, and story do not tread on any new waters. Of course the story of corrupt casino management is new for him, but the overall idea and presentation is just like the treatment Scorsese gave the mafia in Goodfellas. The performances are good, but De Niro was the only one who came across as great. Pesci gives an energetic and exciting performance as Santoro, but he did the same thing as Tommy DeVitto in Goodfellas. Here he's essentially giving a repeat performance. And Stone was pretty good, but her character drove me really crazy, especially at the end. Like Goodfellas, Scorsese infuses lots of vibrance in his movie. His camera is very mobile and he fills our ears with almost constant voiceovers and pop tunes. His movie definitely comes across as slick, but what's compelling about it is how he shows the darkness and the glitz of Vegas simultaneously. Casino is three hours long, but never boring. But it comes across as pedestrian Scorsese instead of inventive Scorsese. He doesn't offer anything new, which for a director of his caliber, is a bit of a letdown. And it's not that I'd rather just see Goodfellas again because Casino tells a good story that taught me some lessons about Vegas. But this is Scorsese, a director with so much range that I don't just want more of the same.