Monday, August 6, 2012


CASINO (1995)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it still got built. Once upon a time, where there now is a city, there isn’t one. Many of these cities were built thousands of years ago, but some were built rather recently. Las Vegas, my hometown, first began existing, about a 100 or so years ago, but it wasn’t built until years later. Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” received mixed reviews when released, some thinking it just “Goodfellas,” in Vegas, while others hailing it as one of Scorsese’s masterpieces. I’m just as torn on the film. The movie was written by Nicolas Pileggi, and based on his book, just like “Goodfellas” was, and it even has many of the same actors, but I lean towards the latter, because although it’s got the feel of “Goodfellas,” with multiple voiceovers and the mafia running around like they own the town, that film was about a life and a lifestyle, this film is about the building of a city. Based on the life of sports batter Frank “Lefty,” Rosenthal, renamed Rothstein (Robert De Niro) here, the film chronicles just how Vegas went from just a small desert oasis to a Mecca for hopefuls who believe hitting it big, is a realistic American Dream. Like all cities, It shows how the town is run from literally following money around, from the tables to the counting rooms to how it’s skimmed off the top and eventually to Kansas City. It also shows how Ginger (an Oscar-nominated Sharon Stone) can easily control the towns with just a few hundred dollar handshakes. (I always give my girl at the loan office a little extra, but you didn’t hear that.) Ace (De Niro) gains a Chicago reputation as a sports gambler and linemaker, so much so that Vegas comes to him, as he’s soon hired by the Tangiers (In real life, the Stardust), and like Ginger, the hooker Ace falls for and marries, Vegas is a lady which cruel luck can turn on a heartbeat, beginning with the arrival of his childhood friend, hothead Tony Spilotro, renamed Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) here, who’s temper and overindulgent lifestyle eventually put Ace in possible trouble with the Nevada Gaming Board, but this is just one of many lives Ace, like Vegas has. When the film came out, Vegas was becoming the new family destination owned by corporations and had started to lose that old nightclub feel. Now, it’s changed again into a young adult playground for rich celebrities like the one’s on Ace’s TV show. As some of you may have figured out, I’m from Las Vegas, and already know quite a lot about this city. Many of the major players in Vegas that are shown in “Casino” are still fairly powerful. One of the characters is based on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, long before he gained the kind of power he has now. Our former Mayor, Oscar Goodman, actually plays himself, as the Mob’s lawyer (He’s the one who just finished building his notorious Mob Museum, which I don’t at all think is a waste of taxpayer dollars.). I bring that up, because the movie plays out like all this is Ancient History, when in fact, there’s newsreel footage of all this, many of which Scorsese based his scenes on. The comparison film in the Scorsese canon to “Casino”, isn’t “Goodfellas,” it’s actually “Gangs of New York”, another movie about how a city got built by the bloody hands of its gangsters, politicians and businessmen. The reason that movie doesn’t work as well is that the core story is made-up, although granted, it’s based on real people and it blends the story well with real events. (Actually, story-wise the movies are actually almost the same) Scorsese had the benefit of the people who were actually around to help make “Casino” far more accurate, and get all the important details right. I talked with Frank Cullato, one of the film’s advisors. Frank Vincent plays his role in the film, and he said that he sat next to Scorsese all through the shoot, as he wanted to make sure everything was as accurate as possible.   

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