This week, we finally close out our inadvertent Robert De Niro month with Casino. Unlike many of the other films we discussed this month, this is primarily a De Niro film. In Goodfellas and The Untouchables, he was more of a second-tier or secondary character. With Heat, he was sharing 50 percent of the screen with Al Pacino. Yes, he did share much of his time with Joe Pesci but De Niro was the true star of this film.
Casino is a film about how Vegas changes you. Many of the people in this film were drawn in by the glitz and glamor, but eventually that lust for money and power destroyed them all. We have seen this type of film before, the morality of a person being seduced by the dark side of money, fame and glamor. Of course, the major element was the backing of the mob and their involvement in the business of Las Vegas.
Sam Rothstein was someone that was good at picking winners. He knew how to make money by knowing what horse to get behind. The minute he assumed control of the Tangiers, he made so many mistakes due to the influences of people around him and eventually his ego. He knew he was a shot caller and he had to have things done his own way. For a short time that worked for him. Once Nicky Santoro got involved, he became distracted.
The relationship between Sam and Nicky is a very love-hate relationship. In the beginning, back in the neighborhood, their relationship was very much that of a money-maker and his protection. However, when the mob chooses to send Nicky out to Vegas to protect him, the desires and ambition that comes from Vegas got to him. He had to look out for himself and his “neighborhood” background got the better of him. He never truly realizes just how much of the Wild West Vegas is.
Once Ginger McKenna got into the mix, you had another distraction for Sam. Not only did he willingly get himself into a loveless relationship, assuming that time will make her love him, she began using him which took his eye off the ball. Then when Sam fired the cousin of a commissioner, everything went downhill and he was disrespected. Of course, his ego came into play and that led him down a path that was not going to end up well for anyone involved.
The usage of spotlights on characters, primarily when you are watching Ginger work the room at the country club reception, you got the sense of Vegas. Bright lights matched up against complete darkness was a major symbol between the lights of Vegas and the dark desert that surrounded them.
Framing within the shot were something to be admired, which is why you need to see this movie in the widescreen format. Fortunately, that does not seem to be a major issue nowadays. For instance, when Sam wants security to take down the cheaters (which get the hammer later on in the scene), you have the security guards anchoring the frame around the target, which is in the center of the frame.
The script does not feel as tight and polished as his previous film Goodfellas, it holds a more melodramatic tone but the story and the acting definitely keep you interested. Most people will have their favorites between Goodfellas and Casino, but it seems to be whichever you saw first is your favorite. While I admit that I prefer Goodfellas, it does mean that Casino is somewhat inferior. It is not. However, it would only mean that I drop in Goodfellas a bit more often in the Blu-ray player.