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No-one stays at the top forever 

Year: 1995 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Casino might look superficial and flashy at first, but that suits its superficial, flashy subject perfectly. What else is a movie about Las Vegas going to look like? Alongside the neon-coloured glitter and the huge slow-motion close-ups of tumbling dice, there is a soundtrack to match: classic pop and rock songs with a decided cliché factor.

To some extent, Scorsese might deliver what you expect in this film. It’s about mobsters, and there are some stomach-churning baseball bat moments. There is Robert De Niro and there is Joe Pesci. Don’t be tempted to think of this as GoodFellas 2, though. This is a different take on the mobster’s rise-and-fall story - where GoodFellas concentrated on the rise, Casino is more about the fall.

There are some superb performances that make this film worthwhile. De Niro glides through a complex role with what seems like astounding ease, and Pesci is excellent, if somewhat caricatured. Really surprising, though, is Sharon Stone. Ginger is a bitchy, selfish one-time hooker and hustler, and yet Stone plays her as human, making her far more sympathetic than she could have been. Despite these, Casino is far from being an actor’s film. Scorsese constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible within an image, to create visuals that underline the story, and which give the film so much of its flair and energy. From the psychedelic opening titles to the mobsters’ suits, the film has a vein of pure, coloured fantasy running through it. Add to this the editing that goes beyond fluid, and the film acquires an adrenaline rush of risk and excitement that lets you know exactly what Las Vegas is all about.

Of course, after the rush there’s the comedown, and the film ends in typical Scorsese fashion leaving you wondering what it was all about. Was there a message, something to be learnt? Or is the whole point that there is no point? Maybe you’ll just have to watch again to try and find out.

Katherine Shaw

As Mean Streets was a story about the lowest members of the Mob hierarchy and Goodfellas a tale of the soldier ants, with Casino, Martin Scorsese's focus - taken from the real events - moves up into some of the highest echelons of Mafia life: the casino's of Las Vegas (not Las Vagas - Jon). Though not as high ranking as the Corleone family, Sam 'Ace' Rothstein (Robert de Niro) works for similar kind of men 'back home' and the movie follows his rise and fall in and out of favour and power. Getting hooked up with hooker Ginger (Sharon Stone) and old friend from home Nicky Santoro (the unique, horribly hilarious Joe Pesci), Ace's fall from power is interspersed with acts of massive violence and a relentless study of how these Mobsters consolidated their power through the sixties and seventies.

The story itself is nothing unique on a broad level, nothing James Cagney hasn't already done in his gangster movies from the thirties, but what makes Casino so brilliantly distinctive is Scorsese himself. Soaking the movie in period detail and an incessant score that ranges from Bach to the Rolling Stones, the camera soars through the Tangiers Casino (an amalgamation of three or four real casinos), taking in gambling drifters, hookers, silk ties, incessant greed, violence, power relations and a massive exchange of paranoid, power-hungry looks that give the whole movie a frantic, near hysterical feel.

What makes the movie so unique is Scorsese's investing the whole proceedings with mythic undertones. Red suits, flames aplenty and constant references to Paradise makes it an epic about a fall from grace, right from the downright awe inspiring fire soaked credits sequence from Hitchcock favourite Saul Bass, through the, at times, horrific (all taken from real events) violence of Nicky Santoro (vice, pen, you name it, he'll use it) down to their final expulsion from Vegas into death or hiding. Without losing touch with Casino's crime novel roots, Scorsese turns the whole movie into an almost tragic tale of power and how it was lost before the corporations took over and turned Las Vegas into a hypocrisy heavy capitalist Disney Land.

H.I McDonnell

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Screenings of this film:

1996/1997 Autumn Term (35mm)
1996/1997 Autumn Term (35mm)
1999/2000 Autumn Term (35mm)