Based on Nicholas Pileggi's book 'Wiseguy', Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS is a wry, violent, and exhilarating film about the life of Henry Hill, an asp...
43 reviews from the community
Review of "Goodfellas (DVD)"
Updating a lot of old draft reviews - no photos, haven't used some of the stuff in getting on for a decade, will look like I'm taking the p*ss but I'm not...
~x~x~x~ As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster... ~x~x~x~So says Henry Hill, the main(ish) protagonist of Goodfellas. This is in the 50s and Henry lives a dull semi-respectable life in Brooklyn, Henry idolises the mafia style gangsters who run his part of the city and at a young age decides he wants to be a part of it. When he's old enough he leaves school to work for them, but after a shock result at court he's taken under the wing and protection of an older and more experienced gangster - and thus begins a journey that stretches across three decades, showing how Henry's life is going but also focusing cleverly on other major characters in the film.
Goodfellas is based on a book released in the mid-eighties (Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi), the film was released in 1990 and became an immediate classic - helped by the fact it stars the evergreen Robert De Niro and incredibly talented Joe Pesci, but also because this is an amazingly interesting story on a subject which not many of us will ever actually face in the real world. I'm not big on gangster films personally but my partner is, he had Goodfellas on VHS (ask your parents...) when we met and this was one of the first films we watched together at his on a indoors date night. In the 21 years since I've seen Goodfellas on probably a yearly basis, occasionally more often as this is one of Mark's absolute favourite films - it's one of those films which is rarely on the tele, sometimes you'll catch it on Film 4 but at over three hours it's just too long for most channel schedules (and there's not much that can be cut out to shorten it either as every single scene manages to be important to the film).~x~x~x~ What goes on with the Goodfellas? ~x~x~x~
This is a strange film in that it has a strong storyline, but at the same time no storyline at all. Henry narrates the film and also obviously stars in it; the majority of the three hours (plus) shows his unexpected rise in the gangster world, then the not so unexpected fall (that's not a spoiler, most of the kingpins do fall in the end). It's the bits in between which make the film so special though, as Goodfellas covers such a long period of time we really get to know Henry as a person - mafioso type gangsters have to be a certain kind of man but this film showed the human side of one of these, well, killers.Goodfellas is an exciting film due to the fact there's a lot of action in it, but it also shows the mundane side of life that even gangsters have - Henry gets married but also has a mistress, his wife is beautiful but his mistress excites him and he can't get the balance right. Paulie prides himself on his traditional values and repeatedly tries to get the selfish and overly-excited Henry (Liotta) to commit to his family, Paulie also hates drugs so when Henry decides to get into cocaine trafficking it heralds the beginning of the end...
~x~x~x~ Perfect casting ~x~x~x~Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta all in the same film is amazing - all three of them are amongst my favourite actors and this Godfather-esque film allows them to play the iconic tough guy parts which they do so well. The three of them bounce off one another; none of their conversations look forced and really none of them look like they're acting at all, they're a natural trio and regardless of whether they're laughing and enjoying the good times or consoling each other after a tragedy it's obvious they're friends in real life too as they're just so smooth around one another (some things can't be solely acted).
Ray Liotta is the big boy of the film, inspired casting considering he only had a few nondescript roles on his CV at that point. He was absolutely perfect as Henry, having the boyish good looks to make his character appear like a loveable rogue but that amazing Italian-American presence also helped him to come across as terrifying when he was in violent gangster mode. The same is true of De Niro who has the same kind of film persona as Liotta, although while De Niro has proved he can act in just about any role (I'm not too sure about his 'comedy') Liotta hasn't managed to climb as high in the acting world. Since Goodfellas Ray Liotta has been in dozens of films but nothing noteworthy and none I can name off the top of my head, De Niro and Pesci have made far fewer films but all of them memorable (with some modern classics sprinkled in between them).Paul Sorvino as Paulie is excellent, it would have been easy to turn the character into a caricature of Vito Corleone but Sorvino gives us a different kind of 'head gangster' - he's not afraid to use violence or his influence to get what he wants but comes across as having a kind heart and always takes care of his friends (and also deals with his enemies!).
Lorraine Bracco plays Karen Hill, Henry's much suffering wife. She's the type of woman who will take so much and then snap, like the majority of the rest of the cast she is an Italian-American and plays the role of Karen slightly differently to how you'd expect a mob wife to be - it's strange to see her and Henry in a way as he's such a 'life and soul' type of man, while in comparison she's like a shy and quiet mouse. The one thing that will always send Karen into full red-blooded Italiano mode is Henry's relationship with his mistress, and the fact he looks after the other woman financially - there are a couple of scenes where Karen kicks off massively about this state of affairs (excuse the pun) and they are absolutely BRILLIANT to watch.~x~x~x~ Three men, three decades ~x~x~x~
What I always find interesting about Goodfellas is the fact it's based across a 25 year period yet it never seems unrealistic considering the actors don't really age much throughout the film. De Niro would, of course, hack an arm off for a movie role (method actor supreme that he is) but Liotta's appearance doesn't really change much at all other than the occasional difference in hairstyle.It's weird as I suppose the film took a year to shoot and you can't age a man that quickly in a realistic way - De Niro and Pesci are a good ten years older than Liotta; at the time of filming he would have been around 35 (but with a younger look), I imagine it's harder to age a man of that age compared to 46 year olds De Niro and Pesci who already were starting to develop their 'world weary' cynical looks. There are differences in the way the amazing De Niro looks through the film and I can imagine him quickly losing ten pounds to properly characterise his role, allowing the grey to come through over the course of the film - it's just very clever to be honest that I've never actually questioned why the characters don't age...
~x~x~x~ Sounds of Brooklyn violence ~x~x~x~I don't usually take much notice of the music in films if I'm honest, but I remember Mark telling me years ago that the soundtrack to Goodfellas was interesting in that Martin Scorsese chose the music to relate to the time period within the film. This means that as the story progresses the songs become more modern, ending with a booming rendition of Layla towards the end of the film during a particularly emotional and gripping scene. During the end credits the Sid Vicious 'classic' My Way is pumped into my ears, giving the film an exciting climax as you sit and digest what you've just watched.
The soundtrack is available on CD but personally I wouldn't bother considering there are lists of the songs from the film posted online and there's nothing you won't be able to find for free on You Tube.~x~x~x~ Watch again? ~x~x~x~
Yes, definitely - I'm not one for re-watching films and I hate looooooong films, so I think it's testament to what a fantastic film this is that I've seen it at least twenty times now and still enjoy it each time.Watching the lives of the men in the film is more interesting than you'd think, this film is very much an action film and while there are sections of moving/touching/important dialogue I do think the physical performances are the main draw. There's shooting, torturing and general nastiness shown but oddly none of it feels gratuitous - if you choose to watch a mafioso gangster DVD complete with Liotta, De Niro and Pesci on the cover looking ever so slightly menacing then you can't really go off complaining to anyone if the sheer murderous-ness of the film offends you. It's rated 18 with the note that it may contain strong scenes of sex, violence or bad language - it's not something you'd probably want to watch with your nan (although my 70 year old mum does actually have a penchant for 'murder' films and loves Goodfellas). There's not all that much sex in it to be honest as the film is based more on the other things men in power get up to, violence and bad language is in practically every scene though (think along the lines of 'you fu*kin fu*k, I'm gonna fu*kin blow some fuckin holes in ya' *bang, bang, bang* [lots of red stuff]).
~x~x~x~ Anything else to watch? ~x~x~x~Well, personally after I've sat and watched a film that's more than three hours long the last thing I really want to do is sit even longer and watch the associated people talk about it. Luckily for me there aren't many extras on here, in fact there are just two with one being a set of trailers for unrelated early 90s films. The other is a series of production notes, this is only a short look into the way the film was made and there's nothing indepth or that you couldn't find out online if you're the kind of person who likes to know something more about the film you've just watched.
There are the usual interactive menus and scene selection areas which are listed here as extras, but really are so common on just about every DVD now that they're nothing anyone is likely to get excited about.£5.99 - £27 (what?!) - Amazon
Product Information : Goodfellas (DVD)
Manufacturer's product descriptionBased on Nicholas Pileggi's book 'Wiseguy', Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS is a wry, violent, and exhilarating film about the life of Henry Hill, an aspiring criminal who ends up in the FBI's witness protection program after testifying against his former partners.<BR>As a poor Irish-Italian growing up in 1950s New York City, Hill (Ray Liotta – SOMETHING WILD, UNLAWFUL ENTRY) rises through the ranks of his Brooklyn neighbourhood's organized crime branch, and with money from the mob he begins living the good life, complete with a beautiful bride, Karen (Lorraine Brocco – THE SOPRANOS), a fancy home, and the best seats at the most exclusive restaurants. A botched robbery lands Henry in prison for a brief period of time, and when he gets released, his reckless infidelities and drug abuse damage his associations with his adopted family.<BR>Scorsese's film is a visual and sonic onslaught, featuring a brilliant pop-music soundtrack and stunning camera work--including the infamous Steadicam one-take that introduces the audience to the Copacabana's patrons. He uses the songs to infuse a rhythm into every scene that is at once breathtaking and invigorating. As the psychopathic Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci – RAGING BULL, MY COUSIN VINNY) delivers an unforgettable, Oscar-winning performance that is alarming in its cold-blooded callousness and Robert De Niro adds to the prestige with his quietly calculating turn as Irish hoodlum Jimmy Conway, helping to cement GOODFELLAS' place as a classic portrait of life in the mob.
Listed on Ciao since: 28/06/2000