Monday, 19 September 2011

Goodfellas (1990)

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Gangster.

Following Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) life of crime from a (relatively) innocent age to a very well respected gangster, Martin Scorsese’s epic film of New York mafia is funny, shocking, brutal, but above all completely compelling. Scorsese manages to make a very complex story with many different characters manageable, so that the viewer never feels lost. Much as I love The Godfather (and I really do), one criticism may be that Coppola tries to get too many characters in. I think that the balance in Goodfellas is perfect.

The cast obviously help to make the film great as well. Robert De Niro is fantastic as the very influential Jimmy Conway; Ray Liotta probably gives the performance of his career, and Joe Pesci is terrifying but brilliant as the unpredictable Tommy deVito. There is even a very brief appearance by Samuel L Jackson. One of the best (and scariest, most uncomfortable) scenes is the famous “funny guy” scene; this really demonstrates how well Liotta and Pesci work together in this film.

The film is not without its fair share of movie-making excellence either. Scorsese always finds the best place to put the camera, there is a very nice scene where the camera tracks around a large table in a restaurant as we are introduced to several characters, and a brilliant one take steady cam shot following Ray Liotta into a restaurant as he takes girlfriend Karen on a date.

On top of all this, there is a fabulous soundtrack, which often seems at odds with the action on screen; Sunshine of Your Love as de Niro sits at the bar smouldering and with one blink seals the fate of someone.

I feel that I’ve always preferred The Godfather over Goodfellas as the ultimate gangster film, I think I still do, but only just. With a great cast, tight script, and excellent direction Goodfellas is an almost perfect film. I just wish Joe Pesci wasn’t so damn scary!