Dinelka Balasuriya’s review published on Letterboxd:
"When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point?"
- Sam "Ace" Rothstein
Martin Scorsese’s Casino is often accused of being an unofficial sequel to his masterpiece, Goodfellas, and as such, has gone onto become perhaps the most overlooked film by Scorsese. A true epic and a phenomenal achievement in filmmaking, even if it doesn’t challenge Scorsese to a new genre of filmmaking, Casino is a visually breathtaking film that perfectly indulges in the violence and operations of the casino. It’s riveting, clever, memorable and truly and undeniably outstanding and is a near perfect film that demands additional viewings. Hardly a sequel to Goodfellas but more so, a film on its own terms, the story, the performances, the cinematography and pacing may be even superior to his Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese with Casino staples himself as the greatest director of the crime genre and quite easily, the greatest director currently alive.
The film tells the story of three interlacing lives. Sam Ace Rothstein (De Niro) and Nicky Santoro move into Las Vegas to operate a casino. Their lives take a drastic turn as they meet Ginger (Stone) and become increasingly absorbed in greed, deception, murder, betrayal and fame.
Perhaps one of the reasons that may make Casino a film that is better than Goodfellas is the more human characters. Outside of Liotta’s Henry Hill, Goodfellas was a story of more monstrous men rather than emotional men. Casino is a deep and thought provoking film with three lead characters, portrayed by De Niro, Pesci and Stone to perfection, who are conflicted and driven from emotional means. In this sense, Casino does feature the more compelling characters who are linked to one another in a fascinating way. Stone’s Ginger is especially the film’s highlight, starting out as the most endearing character and ending as the most despicable character. Stone portrays each aspect of Ginger, her conflict, love and her obsession and addiction to drug use and the psychological and emotional effects absolutely perfect. In a film that stars De Niro and Pesci whose chemistry is stunning, Stone’s performance is so good that it may the film’s best performance.
Scorsese reinforces the narrations that were provided in Goodfellas into Casino, now mostly provided by De Niro and Pesci. The narrations are written expertly and acted amazingly well, truly absorbing the audience into the story of Casino. The narrations bring to the film a sense of its epic and tragic nature whilst also serving as an informative docu-drama on the life of a casino in Las Vegas. Two of the best scenes in the film work as a result of the outstanding narration. In one scene, very early into the film, Nicky beats up a guy who insults Sam. De Niro then provides a narration describing Nicky’s ruthless and monstrous nature about how “you better get a gun and you better kill him, or else, he’ll just keep comin’ back”. It’s a phenomenal bit of narration that introduces Nicky perfectly into the story. The other scene is a long scene where De Niro explains how the casino functions and how the different members of a casino work. “I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.” It’s another clever and effective use of narration to set up the film perfectly. These narrations, combined with the breathtaking cinematography, make the casino a truly immersive part of the film.
Casino is absolutely amazing and criminally overlooked. Not just an underrated Martin Scorsese film but also one of his very best, Casino is truly absorbing as a result of Scorsese’s indulgence in the casino operations and the effective complications that arise between the three main characters. Acted, written, directed, edited and shot immaculately, Casino is definitely art and trademark Scorsese.