Casino ★★★★½

"And that's that." - Ace Rothstein

For the first hour of Casino, you can see Scorsese having a helluva lot of fun aping his 1990 classic by stuffing it with as much narration and pop soundtrack as humanly possible. Like Goodfellas tougher elder brother, it's an intimidating, exhausting beast of a movie. And for the first 60 minutes, it's the elder brother that you don't really like as much: he's a bit arrogant, he throws his stuff around like he's cock of the walk and he rabbits on about how glorious his escapades are. Yet as you mature as the film goes on and as it finds its feet, you really go beyond admiring it. Hell, you don't actually want it to end for its final two hours.

Wider in scope than Goodfellas and benefitting from a whole new setting, this might be as close as Martin Scorsese will ever come to making a western. Nevada IS the Wild West, and outlaws like Nicky Santoro and Ace Rothstein rule the roost out in the oasis. Casino chronicles events that could have happened 100 years previously; civilisation and order come to the west, providing an almighty power struggle between good and evil, yet more importantly, evil and evil.

This is where Casino finds its true spark: in its two legendary leads. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci finally have the limelight together after Ray Liotta stole the film in Goodfellas, and the scenes where they simply talk, argue and throw insults at each other here are incredible. Like watching two old-time champions square off for one last bout, this is a film built on two towering male performances. Sharon Stone is undoubtedly excellent as De Niro's hysterical junkie wife, but it's damn near impossible to take your eyes off those two Italian stallions. The plot is big, the violence is bigger and the swearing is stratospheric, but when De Niro and Pesci throw down, there's not much else like it out there: two titans circling, eyeing each other up to see who will make the first move.

This is so powerful that you often forget that you're watching a Martin Scorsese movie, as the actors often hog all of your praise. But every now and again, Scorsese throws in a lovely little directorial flourish. From that odd music cue that sends shivers down your spine or that occasional shot that really makes you go 'WOW' (a close-up of De Niro blowing and spinning a dice comes to mind), this is Scorsese reminding you that he is the master of his tight, frenetic style. Then again, as this is his last collaboration to date with both Pesci and De Niro, he has the respect enough to let his two old-timers steal the show and leave us with a lasting impression of them.

Thelma Schoonmaker's editing is as slick as ever, even if the running time is punishing at times. But for such a masterclass in visually stunning your audience with neon, whip-pans and sun-bleached sands, Scorsese is the master puppeteer and De Niro and Pesci are his polished, vintage puppets. And what a show it is.

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