Casino (1995)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, Don Rickles, James Woods, Kevin Pollack, Alan King, Frank Vincent, Dick Smothers, and Richard Riehle, with cameos from Frankie Avalon, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, and Jerry Vale
Grade: Classic

Damn you, Artie Piscano. You fucked it all up.


In 1983, Sam “Ace” Rothstein (De Niro), through narration, talks about how when you love someone, you have to trust them with everything you have. This is the type of love he thought he had in his life. As soon as these words are spoken, Rothstein gets in his car and turns it on. The car explodes.

Before he ever ran a casino or got blown up, Sam was an extremely talented handicapper. He was so good that whenever he made a bet, he could change the odds for every bookmaker in the country. Because of this, the Chicago Outfit gave him one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas to run, the Tangiers. Alongside him was his hot-tempered best friend Nicky Santoro (Pesci) and the woman he loved in Ginger McKenna (Stone). Nicky joins the narration of Sam and is quick to admit that they managed to fuck it all up. Basically, this was the last time “Street” guys were given anything valuable to run ever again. Billions were made when Vegas was at its height, but it was run heavily by the mob. Because of this, the desert outside of the town was known to be a place where “problems were solved”. Of course, these problems were bodies and countless amounts were buried all over the area.

Ten years earlier in 1973 Las Vegas, Sam pulls up to the Tangiers. He runs the place and is well-respected for what he does. Accompanied by his old friend Billy Sherbert (Rickles) who he employs as the casino’s manager, they are raking in the cash. As he talks about how the casinos are the only real winners in Vegas, we are taken into the “Count Room” where they count all the money brought in. It’s an off-limits room. Even Sam couldn’t get inside, but it was his job to make sure it was always filled with cash. The board of directors had no clue how much money was in there. To them, everything looked on the up and up, so they didn’t really bother them. Unbeknownst to them, the guys inside the counting room were all slipped in there to skim the place dry. They’d do short counts, they’d lose fill slips, and even take cash right out of the drop boxes. It was up to John Nance (Bill Allison) to skim the cash right off the top without anyone noticing, including the I.R.S. or anyone else. The guy who watches the door even gets side cash to look the other way. This was a regular occurrence for how things worked in the mafia-ran Tangiers. Every time, it just ended with another fat guy leaving the casino with a briefcase. No one suspected a thing. This briefcase however was going straight to Kansas City, which was as close to Las Vegas as the Midwest bosses could go without getting arrested. This suitcase of skimmed money was all the bosses ever wanted, and they wanted it every month. Nicky continues to narrate as John heads over to the San Marino Italian Grocery store to deliver the briefcase, as the place is a front. In the back of this market in Kansas City, the bosses from Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and all over the Midwest would come to meet, with John joining them. These are the guys who secretly control Las Vegas because they control the Teamsters Union, and that’s where you had to go if you wanted to borrow money to buy a casino.

Nobody got a Teamsters’ loan unless the bosses in this room knew they were going to get their own suitcases. The outfit’s top boss is Remo Gaggi (Pasquale Cajano).

As far as the world was concerned, the powerful Andy Stone (King), head of the Teamsters’ Pension Fund, was a “legitimate” guy. He even played golf with the president. He also took orders though, which included giving up a pension fund loan to Philip Green (Pollack) for the Tangiers. Green was the perfect front man. He didn’t know too much about the real operation and he didn’t want to know either, especially that the bosses made the Teamsters lend Green the money. Funnily enough, Green wanted to believe that the Teamsters gave him the $62,700,000 because he was just smart. At the press conference where this was announced, Sam and Billy are sitting next to the podium where Andy and Green shake hands to make things official. Not much is known about Green other than that he was an “Arizona real estate hustler, who barely had enough gas money to come and pick up his own fucking check”. Regardless, Andy was still the one making all the orders and telling Chairman of the Board Green what to do, as Andy was the bosses’ man. It was just Green’s name on everything. Once this was in place, all they needed was someone they could trust to run the casino’s day-to-day operations. This led them to Sam. Privately, Andy brings up the job offer to Sam, but he’s not sure the Gaming Commission would even give him a license because he has at least “two dozen gambling and bookmaking pinches” on him at that very moment. Andy knows a little loophole though. You don’t have to have a license to work in a casino. All you have to do is apply for one. The state law is that you can work in a casino while they’re processing the application. Because of this, they have a 10-year backlog. Plus, they wouldn’t even want to find out any more details about Sam because of how much money they bring into Vegas anyway.

As long as Sam continues to change his job title (“…from Casino Executive to Food and Beverage Chairman…”, they’ll take his application and put it at the bottom of the pile. Andy knows people who’ve been working for thirty years in Vegas without a license. On the agreement that he can run things his way with no interference, Sam takes the job. To start, he is given the fake title of “Tangiers Public Relations Director”.

He was the right choice too. Sam ate, slept, and breathed gambling. He was cerebral and calculated with his gambling and always made money. Back home years ago, when Sam and Nicky were first hanging out together, Sam would know stuff no one else knew about things he was betting on like if a quarterback of a football team was on coke or if his girlfriend was pregnant. He would go as far as getting the wind velocity, so he could make proper bets on the field goals. Sam would work on this day and night. Because of how serious he took it, he was the perfect “cash register” to run the casino on behalf of the mafia. Remo was a degenerate gamble who always lost, so anytime Sam would come by, he would help Remo out with bets by either fixing things a certain way or offering advice. This is how he got in close. Keeping Remo happy with money was the greatest insurance policy in the world. In one instance, Sam and Nicky greet Remo, and Sam assures Remo that he’ll have some good information for him by Thursday for another bet, prompting Remo to happily respond. Once Sam exits the room, Remo tells Nicky privately to take care of Sam because he’s making them a lot of money. In addition to being his protector, Nicky became the guy who collected for Sam too. In one scene, Sam joins Nicky and Frank (Vincent) at the bar and picks up a pen off the counter. He interrupts the guy next to him to give it to him, but the guy rudely tells him to stick it up his ass. Of course, this prompts Nicky to beat the holy hell out of the guy and stab him with the pen.

This should give you a good idea on how the friendship of Sam and the loose cannon Nicky works.

Regardless, with Nicky protecting Sam, Sam was making the mafia a fortune and much more money than they ever saw previously.

Sam employs some guys he doesn’t like though. For example, Don Ward (John Bloom) is an absolute dope, but his job is secured because he’s the County Commissioner’s cousin. Sam has to make sure those higher-ups are happy. They run the state. They passed the laws, owned the courts, and whatever else. Weekly, dozens of politicians and state officials would come through and Sam would take care of them, as once they got elected, everything was on the house. One of them is Senator Harrison Roberts (Smothers), who frequents the Tangiers to have sex with prostitutes. These types of politicians come cheap, so it’s nothing to worry about. Politicians like K.K. Ichikawa are the “whales” he has to keep an eye on, as the man would regularly play $30,000 a hand in baccarat. He plays fast and big, and he has the bankroll to make some noise. A year previously, he cleaned out a couple of casinos in the Cayman Islands. At the Tangiers, he’s taken them for $2 million and would still enjoy his free amenities, free room, and free private jets. To get back at him, Sam had the pilot lie and say something was wrong with the plane. Then, he missed the commercial flights connecting with Japan. Without nowhere else to go, they goaded him back to the Tangiers with a floor of rooms to himself and watched him go back to gambling, dropping his winnings back and giving up a million of his own cash. After watching how intricate the system is in watching the floor to make sure no one tries to cheat the casino, we see Sam and Billy look on from the security camera room. This is where Sam sets his eyes on Ginger.

It’s obvious she’s stealing chips from the guy she’s with. The guy sees it, and Sam watches it in full display on the security camera. Following this, the guy offers a few chips to her that are of lesser value, but she demands her cut because she made him a lot of money. After he calls her out for stealing from him, she denies it and knocks over his tray of chips. Then, she grabs more and throws it all over the ground, with nearby strangers trying to pick up the chips from the ground. Despite the obvious red flags from this moment alone, Sam knew he fell in love right then and there. Soon after, they start hooking up and Sam admits that for a girl like her, it costs money to keep her around. Because of this, he constantly showers her with gifts, gold, jewelry, and money at every turn. With Ginger, her goal was making money. She was a queen around the casinos. She brought in high rollers and helped them spread around a lot of money. She was one of the best known, best liked, and most respected hustlers in Las Vegas. She took care of everyone too, which allowed for her to roam freely. She would throw side cash to the dealers, pit bosses, floor managers, and the valet parkers, the guys who could get you anything and take care of anything. Ginger took care of the parkers because they took care of the security guards, who took care of the metro cops, who let her operate.

It’s one gigantic supply chain really.

The valet parking job was such a moneymaker, they had to pay off the hotel manager just to get the concession. Ginger could have everything and everyone under control, but she has one lone weakness: her old pimp boyfriend and total scumbag Lester Diamond (Woods). On the regular, she brings money to him and wants to take care of Lester while he lies and gaslights her into believing in whatever he’s doing. Back home, Nicky didn’t play too nice, and a lot of people wanted to nail him for something. After a vacation with his family, he was detained at the airport because they wanted to pinch him for some diamond burglary in Antwerp. They were ready to blame him for anything, no matter where it happened. They were usually right too, as we see Nicky’s wife Jennifer (Melissa Prophet) shake out the concealed diamonds that were hidden in her hair back when they get home. Nicky loved being a gangster and didn’t care who knew. This worried Sam though because he was about to be sent to Vegas to make sure no one fucked with Sam or the skimming operation. Eventually, Nicky and Jennifer go to Vegas to see Sam. Plus, they meet Ginger and are in awe of her. After dinner, Sam and Nicky go together for a car ride to talk. Nicky asks Sam’s opinion of him moving out to Vegas. Though it’s obvious Sam isn’t thrilled about the idea, he acts like he’s cool with it, though he tells him he would have to keep a low profile. Nicky assures him he’ll be cool and that he won’t involve him in anything.

Nicky got acclimated quick with his own scheme. When he won a bet, he collected. When he lost, he told the bookies to go fuck themselves. Since no one could muscle Nicky, he pretty much got away with it. Sam and Ginger would also introduce Nicky and Jennifer to everyone and get them used to the scene. They even got Nicky’s son into Little League Baseball where the kid’s coach was an metro intelligence cop. Even so, Nicky befriends the guy. At the casino, he would make his presence known too. In one instance, he stopped two members of a crew from walking away with $200,000 just by showing up. Out of respect, opposing crews would get a warning if they tried anything in the Tangiers. However, the real trouble came from people that didn’t know who Nicky was and tried to cheat the system. In one instance, Sam spots one man sending signals to another card player at a different table, so he calls in some extra guys to deal with the problem. Following direction from Sam, a man shocks the guy sending signals with a cattle prod and a few security guards take him to the back. The card player who was receiving signals goes to cash out after seeing this. In the back room, they hold the signal guy down. After Sam finds out the man is right-handed, he has one of the security guys smash the guy’s right hand with a hammer. Billy approaches the other guy who’s collecting his money, and he politely takes him to the office to “verify” it. This leads to security bringing him to the back room and showing him what they did to his friend. Sam gives the guy a choice. He either gets the money and the hammer, or he can walk out of there, but he can’t have both. The guy picks the latter and Sam lets him go, though he threatens that he’ll use the saw next time. He also tells him to tell all of his friends to never fuck around in his casino again.

Concerning the already injured guy, Sam tells the security guards to throw him in the alley and to tell the cops he got hit by a car.

Everything was working like clockwork behind Sam. Of course, Sam decides to complicate his own life as this goes on. Despite only knowing Ginger for a few months, Sam proposes to her. He loves her, he’s 43, and he wants a family. She turns him down, saying she cares about Sam but doesn’t have those kinds of feelings for him. Pushing for it, Sam insists the love can grow as time moves on. If they set up some sort of foundation based on the mutual respect they have for each other, he thinks she’ll eventually care for him enough that he could live with that. Ginger is worried about the consequences if things don’t work out between them, but Sam assures her that if they don’t, he still promises to take care of her for the rest of her life, especially if there are kids involved between them. With this assurance, she accepts, and Sam is on top of the world. Unfortunately, Ginger, along with the increasingly unpredictable nature of Nicky, threaten to completely unravel the empire he helped build.

My Thoughts:

Just like how Carlito’s Way was passed off as a retread of Scarface by a lot of people, Casino‘s biggest criticism was that it wasn’t breaking any new ground and seemed to be too thematically similar to Martin Scorsese’s classic Goodfellas. Admittedly, it’s hard to argue about said comparison. The tone, the throwback score, the cast, and even Joe Pesci playing a gangster with the shortest fuse imaginable are all reminiscent of what Scorsese did with the story of Henry Hill. Despite this, Casino is still an absolute masterpiece. People can argue all they want about Scorsese and his adoration for gangster epics, but there’s very few who do them as good as him. If they seem to be related in some way, it doesn’t make the film any worse. Critics just get spoiled and expect the bar to be raised higher each time, which is totally unfair. Scorsese’s Casino would be the best film in any filmmaker’s filmography had someone else’s name been on it. The fact that Casino isn’t considered to be as great as it should be is just a testament as to how incredible most of the famed director’s films are.

The biggest different between Casino and his other films is how the story is laid out. This is a structure you may have never seen before. It’s still a three-act skeleton, but the way it comes together is so innovative in its presentation. We have an opening where our main character is in a car bombing, so automatically, we aren’t sure if he survives because certain characters are narrating the film from an outsider’s perspective from beyond the grave. Additionally, the timeline doesn’t settle down until so much of the inner workings of the casino and the mafia’s influence of the day-to-day operations are explained, which is done magnificently I might add. As the characters start to become more established and the story starts to flow a bit more naturally, the story still weaves in and out of the historical aspects of the plot, so everything is tied in together. This is what separates Casino from everything else, as it’s not just a gangster epic starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Scorsese presents the film in a way that frames it as an exciting historical drama that treats Sam “Ace” Rothstein and Nicky Santoro like real people who are commenting on the action in hindsight like it’s Mystery Science Theater 3000, as the film proceeds, and the characters continue to make bad decisions. Granted, Sam is based heavily on the real-life Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Nicky is based on Anthony Spilotro, Ginger is based on Geri McGee, and many others are based on real-life figures who encompassed the timeframe of Las Vegas at its wildest, but the way they tell this story is much different than any other mainstream film of the 1990s. It’s also a great example of how everything came together to create one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences you may ever see through and through. From the highest and highs and the lowest of lows, Martin Scorsese represents the beauty of “Old Vegas” in its purest form, he details everything to the “T” regarding what it took to be the head of a mob-run casino and shows us the dark side of what Vegas used to get away with in the desert.

It’s just special. Right from the opening of the film, you can tell you’re watching something special. Is it the costuming, the score, the gorgeous cinematography, or is it just everything at once? It’s probably the latter. We’ve seen a lot of films about Las Vegas, but the spirit of what it used to be, couldn’t be more perfect than in Casino.

Robert De Niro’s Sam Rothstein is the main reason why this film is different from Goodfellas. Sam is much different than your typical, tough guy gangster De Niro usually plays, which is why it’s such a breath of fresh air despite the “retread” label. Though he’s not a pushover by any stretch of the imagination, Sam is not a “made man”. He’s a Jewish handicapper with an incredible mind for making bets and making a lot of money from it. He takes his job very seriously. According to Nicky, it didn’t even seem like he enjoyed it because of how serious he took it. From the beginning of the film, we are told that he’s more than likely the best handicapper in the country. Can you imagine that? He’s looked at as the best in the entire United States! This is how he gets in with the mafia. They all like Sam, and they know that putting him in charge of the Tangiers, with his noted expertise, could be a match made in heaven. It is too, which is why the casino was at its most profitable with the way he ran things. As this happens, the confidence of Sam grew even more, and De Niro seems to revel in the rather loud style of Sam Rothstein. Inspired by the celebrities, stars, and the bright lights of Las Vegas, Sam becomes a showman himself. In almost every scene he’s in, in a three-hour picture no less, he’s wearing a new immaculate suit with vibrant color and a serious attention to detail to look like a star himself, as well as with how he operates his casino (Remember those blueberry muffins?). When you combine this with his penchant to light a cigarette in almost every scene as well (this would be a fun drinking game), Sam is “The Man”. Knowing he has the mafia to back him, and he has carte blanche to run things how he sees fit, he becomes ruthless as the head of the Tangiers and thinks he cannot be stopped. For the most part, he really can’t. When you make the bosses that much money, your actions are proven to be right, and you solidify your spot.

Remember, as long as they get that briefcase of skimmed cash, they’ll let you do things your way. This is why Nicky gets away with so much, despite his uncontrollable personality and tendency to react in violence. Though he gets close to the line numerous times, he is still given a long leash because of the amount of money he makes for the mafia. Plus, he’s a “made man”. When the money started getting lighter and his attitude never changed, that is when things started to become a problem.

In a role that is virtually a copy of his Academy Award-winning turn as Tommy DeVito, Joe Pesci is equally entertaining as the hot-tempered muscle Nicky Santoro. Yeah, it may have been an eerily similar role, but why mess with a such a picture-perfect formula? Not only is Pesci once again magnificent as the pint-sized maniac, he’s actually hilarious, giving us some of the best quips of the entire film. I can see Pesci go on rants where he cusses everyone out ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. From a historical perspective, Pesci might be one of the best “cussers” in the history of film. He’s right there with Al Pacino and Samuel L. Jackson and may even trump them both. Because of his amusing, high-pitched voice, it never gets old, and in Casino, it’s some of the best “Madman Pesci” you’ll ever see. From stabbing a guy with a pen after an off-color remark to buying the best security equipment money can buy just to fuck with the FBI, Pesci is just as great as Nicky as he was with Tommy. With the confidence of ten men, Nicky will beat the hell out of someone after even the slightest agitation. He’ll kill you in public, in a back alley, or in someone’s place of business. Nicky does not care. Even when his name ends up in the Black Book or is caught cheating in the Tangiers by Sam (and is warned), he still didn’t care. He knows his job, he knows he’s a “made man” with a proven track record in being the most feared man in the Midwest and eventually Vegas, and he knows what he’s been sent to do. Ask Tony Dogs how bad of a man Nicky is. The scene where he puts his head in a vise and pops out his eye to get information is something impossible to forget! The mafia made the right decision in sending him to help Sam with the Tangiers too. His intimidation tactics are needed to get the business going as far as it does. As we see however, it’s also the same reason that it falls apart. His biggest positive becomes his biggest negative, and his ego explodes into oblivion. Nicky is too reckless and become a liability who needs to be handled. Throughout this epic, you almost start to wonder if Nicky could be a real person because he’s such a loose cannon that causes destruction at every turn, it’s almost completely unbelievable.

You know how when you’re a teenager, and you have a penchant for doing crazy things, but when you get older, you mellow out? Well, Nicky just continuously gets worse as he gets older.

Adding in cocaine doesn’t help either, as his self-destructive personality and careless attitude were only heightened because of it. It results in him getting sloppier with his actions and getting implicated in more crimes, he stops checking back home to get permission for every little thing, and he spirals out of control. Because of this, it results in him making the worst decisions out of all the characters. It’s a shame because again, the mafia knew he was bad. He was just given a lot of leeway because of his results and never appreciated it. Nicky was his own worst enemy and it led to his own undoing, a common theme that can be looked at as the main reason for all of our principal characters’ downfall. One of the best scenes in the film happens in the third act when Nicky finally sits down with Frank after Ginger leaves his restaurant mad over his refusal to help any longer. While sitting on the steps looking exhausted, he comes to the realization that he actually went too far this time. It’s such a low-key response in such a loud and outlandish film that it speaks volumes, especially because the development of Nicky throughout this runtime would make us think that this moment of realization and self-reflection was virtually unthinkable. When he finally admits he fucked up, you know he fucked up BIG TIME. Right then and there, the beginning of the end is evident. Joe Pesci plays the role to perfection. Of course, he had the practice with Goodfellas, so he had no excuse to not be good.

Sam Rothstein could have been the man, but he got too big for himself. If he just followed protocol, especially when firing a worker who had connections, and doubling and even tripling on his stance to get rid of him, you know it was going to bite him in the ass. When Patt Webb responds in the most confident, understated way imaginable to Sam trying to be tough, it was the equivalent of saying, “Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you”. Following this, he was a marked man by the politicians, and that’s where the seemingly untouchable becomes “open for business” without realizing it. Though Sam is powerful in his position and because he is allotted a lot of help from the mafia, he thinks he can do how he pleases. Unfortunately, he’s not as untouchable as he thinks because he’s not a gangster. He just involves himself in gangster-ish things. When he’s reminded of this fact and how he got to the position he’s in in a few humbling moments, these scenes slap us in the face, reminding us of who the characters we’re dealing with, the scenario we’re in, and that the actors involved aren’t the same people they usually play. Yeah, De Niro’s Sam is still a somewhat-tough guy but watching him get bitched out by Joe Pesci, because Nicky is the one who’s actually the gangster here, is one of those pivotal moments that reminds us that this is a much different rodeo than the one that we’re used to. This may be your casino but remember how you got the job motherfucker. Sam thought he could do it without the people that got him there like Nicky. Maybe he could have, but his undoing was his own fault as well, and it happened way before the Gaming Control Board got involved. He could have continued to run the Tangiers until his dying days had his own ego not gotten in the way of his success. Of course, this may not have been great from a cinematic perspective, but it shows you firsthand how an ego can change the trajectory of one’s life and career.

As soon as we establish how Sam runs things and how he becomes virtually unstoppable with Nicky Santoro by his side, he takes the first step in the wrong direction. Noted by the cynical tone in his narration, he admits he fucked up his own life with this one crucial mistake of wanting to get married and start a family. It’s a great kickstarter of a moment to set the film into high gear. Plus, the asking of “Why mess up a good thing?” in the closing moments of the movie make this earlier part even better because by the end, it’s clear he learned his lesson from seemingly wanting to mess up a good thing by getting married. Of course, it’s understandable why Sam wanted to take this step considering his age and such, but it’s the person he chose in Ginger that changes the entire movie. To this very day, Ginger can be looked at as the prime example of how picking the wrong woman to marry can ruin your life in every sense of the word. In re-watching’s of this masterpiece of a film, you’ll find yourself shaking your head as soon as Ginger’s face is shown because you already know it’s all downhill from here. Outside of an absolutely phenomenal De Niro and Pesci whose chemistry and rapport between the two can make any film endlessly watchable, the supporting cast is dynamic and filled with truly unforgettable characters. It’s all captained by Sharon Stone in a career-defining performance as Ginger. As her viciousness and absolutely disastrous role that her character plays in Sam’s life, while subsequently taking the story straight into the fiery pits of hell by indirectly being the first falling domino that led to the mafia losing their stronghold of Las Vegas, from a performance aspect, it’s phenomenal work. Stone in Basic Instinct made her a star and it will be the role she is most recognized for and rightfully so. However, in terms of an all-around performance and showing every facet of her acting ability from the hottest woman in Las Vegas without a care in the world to a mentally broken drug addict is what you call an acting masterclass.

Sharon Stone should’ve been a much bigger star than what she was. Casino alone should kept her in the stratosphere of the Hollywood elite for at least another decade. I’m not sure if she just didn’t have the opportunities or whatever else, but the series of missteps and bad career decisions following this film is something to be studied. Stone was one hell of a talent. Everyone knew she was a bombshell, but Casino proved she was a true actress who had serious talent and a hidden dedication to the craft. Just experience the sequence in which she tears the front lawn apart, alerting the neighborhood to her presence, before barging in to get the keys for the deposit box. If you’re studying how to express mania as an actress, Stone is able to convey this on an Academy Award level. In this moment, she understands the character’s plight of feeling claustrophobic in a marriage she only agreed to be apart for the money, becoming an adulterous addict, being forced to live in fear because of who her husband is and what he can do, and being on the brink of insanity because of it all. It’s this feeling of being trapped while also making sense of all the terrible things she’s done previously that has led the Ginger character to this moment. With all of this in mind, the fury Stone brings in this scene, and De Niro’s hysterically calm demeanor as a response to make her look worse, is one of the best sequences of the entirety of this all-time epic. The transformation she takes from beginning to end is one worthy of an Oscar. From the moment Ginger is introduced, you can’t help but smile at her. If you’ve lived a long enough life, every man can remember the moment they saw the woman they regretted they ever met. She makes eye contact with Sam and smiles right back. She knows she’s bad, and that my friends, is the most dangerous of all women. They can get whatever they want, and Sharon Stone is the perfect woman to portray this type of Vegas starlet.

Though she has a slight wickedness in her expression, she’s unbelievable. Ginger is a woman so extraordinarily hot, you’re willing to fuck up your life to get her. Sadly, this happens exactly to our main star, as he was just as fixated as any of us would be in the moment. Even from the start, Ginger has very few redeemable qualities other than her looks, but hey, she’s hot. No one can deny it. Despite the obvious problems between them and how Sam can only keep her around by showering her in the most expensive clothes and jewelry (something he knows from the outset), Sam feels like a star himself because he’s with a woman that makes every man and woman around them jealous. For someone with his status, and with someone who wants an even bigger status than he already has, this couldn’t be a better situation for him. Plus, he loves her to the very end. No matter how many times she screws him and how badly this marriage turns out to be, he loves her. The whole time, Sam thinks he can be the one to change her, and it’s a relatable thought. How many times have we heard this thought process from our own friends? They pick the worst person imaginable to be with mostly because of physical attraction, and they think they are special enough to fix what’s wrong with them. In rare occasions, it does work, but I can’t stress the word “rare” enough. Most of the time, it does not. Above all else, Casino reminds us of the most important lessons one can learn in life: You can’t make a housewife out of a prostitute. You can give her all the money in the world, you can start a family with her, and give her anything she’s ever wanted, but make no mistake about it, she’s still an evil whore.

The only exception is Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but how often does that really happen?

In a smaller role, James Woods was the unsung hero of Casino. Though the best parts about the film are the shiny lights, the beautiful landscapes, the thousand-dollar suits and dresses, and everyone looking their absolute best, Woods as Lester Diamond is the embodiment of the other side of Vegas that isn’t represented enough on film. He’s the slimy, scummy, drug-addicted, douchebag son of a bitch who roams the streets of Vegas scamming the impressionable, assuming none of it will ever come back to him. Essentially, he’s the twisted local that the tourists try to ignore. A pimp and a horrible influence who Ginger just can’t seem to shake, James Woods is fantastic in a small role. Man, he is so ridiculously underrated as an actor it’s insane. Also, maybe because I still have Once Upon a Time in America still on the brain, but it was great to see De Niro scare the absolute shit out of Woods this time around. It felt like justice as a movie fan.

Martin Scorsese does it again with Casino, capturing the glamour of the lifestyle, the extravagance of the city, and the violence and corruption that kept it running for years in seamless fashion. Every scene is just as memorable as the next, and it contains some of the most violent sequences ever put to film (the cornfield beatdown can never be forgotten in the pantheon of crime movies). A three-hour runtime is exactly what is needed to tell this epic story of the rise and fall of mob-ran Las Vegas. The cinematography, the beauty of the scenery, the amazing soundtrack representing the era and atmosphere magnificently, and a wonderful cast make this one of the most engrossing and mesmerizing gangster movies of all time. Despite the ruthlessness of the mafia, the illegal activity of the casino scene, the violent action used to control it, and chaos from every direction, we’ve never seen corruption look this damn good. With his trademark sense of humor sprinkled throughout, Martin Scorsese adds another clear-cut classic to his near perfect filmography.

How this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture over fucking Babe is baffling and downright disrespectful.

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