Film: Goodfellas

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Film:

Goodfellas

Director: Martin Scorsese
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Distributor: Warner Home Video

Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas immortalizes the hilarious, horrifying life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program. The director’s kinetic style is perfect for recounting Hill’s ruthless rise to power in the 1950s as well as his drugged-out fall in the late 1970s; in fact, no one has ever rendered the mental dislocation of cocaine better than Scorsese. Scorsese uses period music perfectly, not just to summon a particular time but to…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas immortalizes the hilarious, horrifying life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program. The director’s kinetic style is perfect for recounting Hill’s ruthless rise to power in the 1950s as well as his drugged-out fall in the late 1970s; in fact, no one has ever rendered the mental dislocation of cocaine better than Scorsese. Scorsese uses period music perfectly, not just to summon a particular time but to set a precise mood. GoodFellas is at least as good as The Godfather without being in the least derivative of it. Joe Pesci’s psycho improvisation of Mobster Tommy DeVito ignited Pesci as a star, Lorraine Bracco scores the performance of her life as the love of Hill’s life, and every supporting role, from Paul Sorvino to Robert De Niro, is a miracle.

Given the number of truly great Mafia movies over the years it would be a brave soul who classed GoodFellas as the best. But surely we can all agree that it is, at the very least, first among equals. Martin Scorsese took the factual details of mobster Henry Hill’s life, as written by author Nicholas Pileggi, and turned it into a cinematic experience that has burnt itself indelibly into the consciousness of every viewer, and which now forms a touchstone in the lexicon of film and TV-making (what is The Sopranos if not GoodFellas: The Soap?) For aficionados it’s a virtuoso exercise in filmmaking, showcasing remarkable and innovative use of steadicam shots, freeze-frame, voice-over narration, editing and incidental music (you’ll never be able to listen to “Layla” the same way again). Every would-be hotshot director from Quentin Tarantino to Doug Liman to Jon Favreau has paid homage to it.

But above all that, it’s an extraordinarily visceral, gripping and thoroughly enjoyable piece of storytelling as we witness the glory days of organised crime from the protagonist’s viewpoint; then, abruptly after one bloody murder too far, we see him decline in a spiral of drugs, violence and paranoia. The principal triumvirate of Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci (“You think I’m funny? I’m here to amuse you?”) and Robert DeNiro are utterly convincing as the three wiseguys. If you haven’t seen it for a while, watch out for many familiar Sopranos faces in the rest of the cast, not least of course the wonderful Lorraine Bracco. —Mark Walker

Barnes and Noble

For those who felt that the Godfather movies presented too idealized a view of the Mafia, Martin Scorsese’s maniacally fast-paced, violent, and funny epic is a bracing antidote; Goodfellas reveals, in unstinting detail, the mob’s amoral savagery. Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s bestselling book Wiseguy, the film chronicles the doomed career of mobster-turned-FBI-informant Henry Hill. Growing up, he idolized the high-living Mafia goons he saw in his Brooklyn neighborhood and eventually became a member of their “family,” though he was only half Sicilian. Largely eschewing conventional narrative, Scorsese adopts an episodic structure that allows him to concentrate on specifics of character and milieu. All of the acting—from Ray Liotta’s dazzling star turn as the cocaine-addled Hill to Joe Pesci’s terrifying, Oscar-winning portrayal of a psychotic gangster—is spectacular. And, as in Mean Streets, Scorsese uses pop music like no other director, brilliantly establishing the mood and period, which spans from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Nominated for six Academy Awards, Goodfellas stands as one of the great modern gangster films. Kryssa Schemmerling

Related Works

Book:Wiseguy

Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family

Nicholas Pileggi

“At the age of twelve my ambition was to become a gangster. To be a wiseguy. Being a wiseguy was better than being President of the United States. To be a wiseguy was to own the world.”—Henry Hill

Wiseguy is Nicholas Pileggi’s remarkable bestseller, the most intimate account ever printed of life inside the deadly high-stakes world of what some people call the Mafia. Wiseguy is Henry Hill’s story, in fascinating, brutal detail, the never-before-revealed day-to-day life of a working mobster—his violence, his wild spending sprees, his wife, his mistresses, his code of honor.

Henry Hill knows where a lot of bodies are buried, and he turned Federal witness to save his own life. The mob is still hunting him for what he reveals in Wiseguy: hundreds of crimes including arson, extortion, hijacking, and the $6 million…[more]

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