Casino ★★★★★

"Your people will never understand the way it works out here. You're all just our guests."

In a filmography of overwhelming sensory reflections of the perspectives of existentially trapped characters, Casino is maybe Scorsese's most claustrophobic. Its protagonist is a mirthless bookie whose ruthless collection of money is an end unto itself, bringing no joy but only a deeper commitment to clinging to his hoard. Richardson's cinematography, all overexposed lighting and ProMist filters, simultaneously embodies the heightened glitz of Vegas, the altered states of coke benders, and interrogation-lamp scrutiny of both the casino overseers and, eventually, the feds. This is a frequently hilarious film, every bit as snappy as Goodfellas, but if Goodfellas is a comic epic about small-timers mistaking their brutish mastery of their domain for power, Casino is an insular, cramped tragedy about a man leading an empire who acts like a small-time hustler, ironically fucking up the moment he actually exercises the power he wields.

The coda, of the mob-controlled Vegas literally detonated by big business selling shit bonds to pay for their corporate takeover of the town (an eerie precursor to the recklessness leading to the financial collapse) is one of the bleakest things in Scorese's oeuvre. Only corporate America can make the Mafia look friendly and personable. As for Rothstein, he ends up right where he started, yet where Henry Hill must soberly reckon with his humiliation, Sam unsettingly looks just as comfortable running odds for retirees as he did setting the standard for Sin City.

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