Martin Scorsese's adaptation of both Nicholas Pileggi's novel Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas and also real life events surrounding the Mafia's determined and ultimately failed attempt to take over the Las Vegas gambling empire and specifically the Tangiers Casino back in the early 70's.
Robert DeNiro for once doesn't play the muscle in this movie but takes on the more diplomatic role of Sam 'Ace' Rothstein, (based on the real life, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal) Casino Manager and the Mob's front man in Vegas. Sam's main role is to appear to run the Casino 'legitimately' and to ensure that no one is stealing money from it. Should he discover that someone is, he then delegates others to 'punish' them. DeNiro gives what at first seems a subdued, undemanding performance but you soon realise that he is able to capture superbly the torture and despair that his character is experiencing. When acting, DeNiro never comes across as actually 'acting', you totally believe he is the character he portrays. This is most definitely a sign of a great actor and yet another sterling performance from the legendary man.
This leads me onto what is arguably one of the best performances in the movie. Joe Pesci plays Nicky who IS most definitely the 'muscle' of the movie. Based on true life character Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Pesci's portrayal leaves you genuinely disturbed at the ferocity of his mentality and even more so, his actions. He is only a short man, maybe 5'2, but he manages to fill you with fear in a way that few twice his size could ever manage. Even more unsettling is the thought that the character Nicky is based upon, Spilotro, was even more brutal.
Sharon Stone plays Rothstein's manipulative and devious wife Ginger. She starts off totally in control of her situation and knows where she wants to go but through drugs, a lack of love for her husband and a destructive relationship with her one time pimp (played by James Woods) leads her to a rocky road of decline which gives Stone the chance to show she can actually act and boy does she rise to the challenge earning herself an Oscar nomination in the process.
Casino is dark, depressing, very violent and full of profanity but make no mistake, if you can stomach it, this is a truly brilliant movie and along with Goodfellas, is one of Scorsese's finest ever Mafia movies. Not for the fainthearted or those easily offended, Casino tells it as it was and leaves little to the imagination. I'm just glad it's not like that down at my local William Hill!
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