DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
The opening twenty minutes of a feature film are like the first three chapters of a book in the sense that they either win or lose you depending on its success. Whether it be the D-Day landings in Saving Private Ryan or the naval battle in Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World, or the twenty minute so-called Steady-cam shot from Brian DePalma’s, Snake Eyes; the opening 20 minutes set the tone, and Casino has such an opening.
Like most of Scorsese’s work, there’s a lot of narration and in this case, most of that is shared between Robert De Nero’s, “Ace” and Joe Pesci’s, Nicki. “Ace” is a man with mob connections who is employed to run the fictional Tangiers casino in Las Vegas in 1973, and Nicki is a made man and his boyhood friend who wants to take Vegas for his own.
The opening of Casino is a lesson in crooked accounting and you have to keep up with this as it does not patronise the audience in any way. Everything is explained, the characters, their roles and how they do things, but I must admit that this had become a little tedious after a while and the old adige about showing the story rather than telling it comes to mind as you’re watching it.
But it gets there and the remainder of the 172 minute running time is taken up with the domestic and mod drama of running the Tangiers. Scorsese is an old school film maker and his style is very apparent, as he crafts his film from the opening frame, with the interesting choice of a Saul Bass opening credit sequence over something more contemporary.
The acting as good as you would expect from such a cast, which includes in addition, Sharon Stone and James Woods and all in all this is a very successful and gripping drama from Scorsese, but it is just that, and lacks any real twists and turns, offering few surprises. The violence though, is excessive and though shockingly brutal, realistic and frightening in nature, it may well be too much at times, going beyond the needs of the story. But Joe Pesci’s portrayal as the thoroughly evil Nicki is brilliant, though not too far removed from that of Tommy DeVito, his character from Goodfellas, but since both films share screenwriter and directorial credits, that’s not entirely a surprise…