Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Kevin Pollak, Frank Vincent, Don Rickles, Alan King
Based on true events and widely considered the spiritual successor to Goodfellas, Casino tells the story of Sam Rothstein and his journey from street bookie to the mob’s right-hand man in Vegas.
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Casino is based on the real mob run Stardust, Fremont and Hacienda casinos in the 70s and 80s. It includes the rifts between casino manager Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spolotro.
Those familiar with Scorsese’s style will need no clues to know Casino is one of his masterpieces. As the first “explosion” scene flows into the next, the audience is immediately reminded of the unique Goodfellas style layering.
Casino is shot mainly from the view of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a Jewish-American handicapper brought in to Vegas by the mob. With his passion for all things gambling, Sam was appointed manager of the Tangiers Hotel and Casino. Everything runs surprisingly smoothly, that’s until the extremely violent Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is introduced. He’s been brought in as the “muscle;” his whole purpose is to protect Sam and the Casino’s interests. Unfortunately, the result is like putting a kid in a candy store.
They say behind every successful man is a woman, in Sam Rothstein’s case that would be Ginger (Sharon Stone). Controlled by her loser pimp ex-boyfriend, Ginger is probably the best hustler in Vegas, male or female. She is the lioness that Sam attempts to tame. Her devious mind and spontaneous nature don’t mix well with Sam’s straight forward attitude.
For most mob movie fans, Casino is held close to the heart for the violence. We have to thank Joe Pesci for some brilliant scenes as a brutal enforcer you wouldn’t ever dare to cross. Notable scenes such as the brilliant “Pen Scene” or “The Melon Scene” are prime examples of just how far he will go to teach someone a lesson. At the time of release Casino was accused of being too violent, but on hindsight this film could not have been shot any other way. Pesci really sets the benchmark as a psychopath “I don’t give a f**k” enforcer. It’s a shame that many only remember him from the Home Alone series where he played a comedic burglar. He did the gangster genre a brilliant service both in Goodfellas and Casino. He also contributed to breaking the record of the amount of times the word f**k is said in a film.
The trials and tribulations of having “too much money,” (not possible for you and I) running a Casino with pride and egos in the balance and dealing with a scheming wife all prove difficult to manage for Sam Rothstein. Things go from bad to worse when the knock on effect reaches the mob bosses at the top.
Again, without giving too much of the plot away, the return-to-first-scene style Scorsese is known for leaves you with a happy ending as you can get with a mob flick.
Casino is definitely up there with the best gangster movies. It has everything; an unpredictable story based on true events, more than enough violence and Joe Pesci alongside De Niro all in the setting of Las Vegas before it became family-friendly.