Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 178 mins
Casino is an American film about the story of a Las Vegas casino executive and a mafia enforcer whose friendship devolves into a bitter rivalry, as they fight for control of the casino’s funds, as well as the love of their lives.
As the director of nearly countless all-time classics, there’s no doubting the credentials and boundless talent of Martin Scorsese, and while Casino certainly isn’t his best work ever, it’s still filled to the brim with classic Scorsese charisma and intrigue. Complete with stellar lead performances across the board, good humour and a degree of strong crime intrigue, Casino proves an engaging watch over its three hour-runtime, although falters when it comes to delivering the majesty that a film of such length really deserves.
Let’s start on the bright side, however, with the fact that, despite its weaknesses in the screenplay, Casino is a film that absolutely oozes charisma and style from beginning to end. With more confidence and more budget than Goodfellas, it’s able to go all out in delivering the most stylish and most spectacular crime drama possible, with the lavish lifestyles of crime bosses in Las Vegas taking centre stage throughout.
Scorsese’s classic directing style also works fantastically throughout, with a brilliant combination of gritty, hard-knuckle crime and elegant emotional introspection, strung together fantastically by an engrossing and confident atmosphere that makes for a genuinely engaging watch over the course of the three hours.
And on top of that, the three lead performances from Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone only add to the abundance of charisma on display. De Niro and Pesci take up their respectively well-suited roles – De Niro as a wise but flawed figurehead and Pesci as the hot-headed enforcer type – both bringing fantastic energy to the film, as well as an unavoidable likability to their characters throughout.
Sharon Stone, too, puts in a fantastic performance that, while initially on the quieter side, builds brilliantly over the course of the story to put her on a fully level playing field with De Niro and Pesci, portraying her character’s ever more off-kilter tendencies brilliantly as the tension grows between the two male leads.
All of that, coupled with a screenplay that tells an engaging and entertaining story, makes Casino a lot of fun to watch, and certainly worth the time for any fan of Scorsese, or the crime genre in general.
However, as a director who is responsible for some real all-time classics, we hold Scorsese to a higher standard than many others, and that’s why Casino just doesn’t cut the mustard in the end, particularly when compared to the very similar Goodfellas of five years earlier.
The story here is an undeniably engrossing one, and so it proves throughout, but it misses the mark when it comes to delivering the majesty of a story of a lifetime. Compared with Goodfellas, which tells the story of Henry Hill’s rise and fall in the mafia, Casino doesn’t hit those emotional beats quite as well throughout, and while it does still tell of a rise and fall, it never really conveys the tragic poetry and irony that often makes that premise so powerful.
As a result, while Casino is a lot of fun to watch, and still a very strong crime drama by typical standards, its similarities to the vastly superior Goodfellas make it an often underwhelming watch, as we follow a story that becomes a little too disjointed over the course of three hours, failing to tie the worlds of gritty crime and sheer emotional passion together in the same enthralling and deeply elegant fashion, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7 overall.