Thursday, August 31, 2017

Movie #421: Goodfellas

Goodfellas is a gangster flick directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino, Lorraine Bracco, and a lot of other folks, including a young-ish Samuel L. Jackson. It's one of the defining movies of the genre and earned Pesci an Oscar.

As far back as Henry Hill (Liotta) could remember, he wanted to be a gangster. The movie traces Hill's life from his childhood in New York to working for Paulie Cicero (Sorvino), meeting Jimmy "The Gent" Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci), who become his partners in crime, and working his way up in the family. He marries and has kids, and the movie occasionally switches perspective to that of his wife Karen (Bracco), a Jewish woman who marries into this mob and comes to regard the insular nature of "the family" as normal.

Eventually Hill goes to prison for a few years and winds up hooked on, and dealing, cocaine, which brings down more heat than he can buy. He gets busted, sells out his friends, and winds up in witness protection, lamenting everything he lost. There's a whole lot more I'm skipping, but that's the guts of it. A lot of the more famous scenes involve Pesci (his "what am I, a clown? Here to fuckin' amuse you?" bit gets parodied all over the place), but Liotta holds the movie together. It's also kinda close to accurate, at least according to Hill himself (skips his military tenure, for example, but that really wouldn't have fit the tone of the movie).

The performances are pretty darned amazing; Pesci and Bracco are standouts, but DeNiro has all of the charm and intensity of his early, pre-Dirty Grandpa career and Sorvino, though he's not in too much of the movie, does a great job of conveying the power of a boss who "didn't move for anybody."

If I have a complaint, it's that the sections where Karen narrates never really go anywhere - she gets to relate her side of the story a little, but then about the time Hill sets his mistress up in an apartment we don't get her first-person perspective anymore, which is a shame. Beyond that, though, it's a fantastic movie - you can say it glamorizes the life, but really it comes off as Hill trying to glamorize it and looking like a dick in the process, which of course he was.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium (it's long, but paced really well)

Next up: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2