Casino ★★★½

Marking the 8th collaboration between director Martin Scorsese & actor Robert De Niro, Casino is a story of money, power, greed, deception & murder that takes its inspiration from real-life events to paint an interesting portrait of both the glamorous & grisly sides of Las Vegas, and is expertly steered by stellar performances from its terrific cast.

The story follows a gambling handicapper who is sent to Las Vegas by the Mafia to oversee their casino operations. When his supervision doubles their profits, they send a mob enforcer who's also his childhood friend to look after him. The plot covers their friendship which turns sour over the years as they compete over a gambling empire.

Directed by Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull & Goodfellas), the film opens with a bang and comes full circle over the course of its runtime yet there is no proper narrative structure to it. We watch people going about their daily business and few people dying, and that's what goes on for 3 hours. But the interest isn't all lost, thanks to Scorsese's fine direction.

However, the repetitive nature of it does diminish the earlier excitement and after a while, the only thing that keeps it going and makes sure that the film steers past the finish line are its trio of excellent performances. The 1970s casino ambience comes alive in vivid detail but the story is at its most gripping when depicting the other side of Las Vegas that's violent, merciless & uncompromising.

Coming to the performances, the film reunites Robert De Niro & Joe Pesci yet again and while the two play their respective roles with comfort & confidence as expected, it is Sharon Stone who steals the show with an at times broken, other times volcanic rendition of her avaricious character. We may not like the characters this film has in store but there's no denying the performances from the cast is absolutely top-notch.

On an overall scale, Casino is another fascinating crime epic from Martin Scorsese that recreates the 1970s casino scene in splendid detail and presents its cast at the top of their game. But just like most of his other works with De Niro, it is a picture that I admire more than I love. A three-sided character study that takes its trio to the top, only to throw them off the summit, Casino isn't going to be a smooth ride if you can't handle lengthy narratives or don't have the stomach for strong, intense violence.

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