GoodFellas

"Extraordinary"

GoodFellas Review


GoodFellas - strange title for a movie, don't you think? There's a capital G and a capital F in there, intercapped as one word. One imagines that Martin Scorsese decided to make not just a film but a global conglomerate too, like FedEx or PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The corporate comparison seems appropriate, because no movie looks at the mob as a business the way GoodFellas does. Sure, the first two Godfather films give us a sophisticated cross-section of the architecture of mob power, and the best parts of New Jack City track the drug trade up and down the class ladder. But GoodFellas is where we get learn exactly where the money goes, and precisely how it compromises, corrodes, and eventually collapses family and friendship. A multi-generational tale of bad money, it is the defining American movie of the 1990s; Scorsese hasn't made a film half as good since its 1990 release.

And Ray Liotta hasn't done a thing one-eighth as good. What the hell happened here? In a scant five years, Liotta went from the virtiginous heights of his complex mobster Henry Hill to thudding elephants like Operation Dumbo Drop. Here, though, he's remarkably assured, funny, and frightening as we watch him become a part of the Outfit's inner circle in tacky New Jersey. (One of the most appealing parts of the film is how it tracks the sub-Woolworth's notions of home design through the decades, from the right-angled '50s to the black-tiled '80s.) The top dog is Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), and Hill's mentor is Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), but the tribe's defining character for Hill - and us - is Tommy De Vito, played with irrepressible brilliance by Joe Pesci. Genuinely funny and kind-hearted but always this close to snapping completely, he underscores the tension Hill feels between loving a second family but knowing it's made up of cold-blooded killers.

And, metaphors aside, Pesci gets some great, eminently quotable lines: "I'm funny how? Funny like a clown? ... I'm here to fuckin' amuse you?" Or, better still, as he exhumes the chopped-up, rotting body from an old hit: "Henry, hurry up will you? My mother's gonna make us some fried peppers and sausage for us. Oh... here's an arm." Dialogue, more than cleverly-imagined shots or interesting set design, is what's made Scorsese one of the best directors of his generation - he has a magnificent ear for the cadence of street talk. GoodFellas isn't his best movie, but it's where the rhythm of the chatter is the most impressive and the most fun to listen to. Young screenwriters are constantly told that voiceovers are crutches, the sign of a weak script, but half of Hill's lines are in voiceover, brilliant little comments that underscore the mobster code and let the movie jump faster across the years. "Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport," Hill tells us. "To us, it was better than Citibank." In two sentences, we've got the how of mob life, the why of it, and the attitude that drives it.

The plot is relatively standard-issue mob stuff, following the cocktails-and-pistols rise and cokehead-turning-state's-evidence fall of Hill. But it gets a freshness in how intimately we understand the mobsters' relationships - it's almost heartbreaking to see Hill frozen out by Cicero and Conway towards the end, because it exposes how false those friendships were. And interestingly, we hear more from women than we do in mob flicks. As Henry's wife Karen, Lorraine Bracco is grating, but on purpose. All the mob wives we meet are grating, because their need for domesticity is smashed by the lives their husbands lead; when Bracco's good, especially towards the end, she shows the emotional toll of making yourself ignore the harm your loved one's doing.

"I'm an average nobody," laments Hill at the very end of the film. "I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook." By "like a schnook," he means what most people call the American Dream: a spouse, a house, some kids, maybe a dog. And that cuts to the heart of what we love so much about mob films. They tell us that there's another world out there, which can give us that Dream, but with a lot more fun and excitement in it. Maybe, if we're lucky, we get to have it both ways. But how much of our consciences, GoodFellas asks, are we willing to sacrifice to make it happen?

Finally available as a special edition DVD, the two-disc set features two commentary tracks (one from the real Henry Hill), and three documentaries about the film and its influences.



GoodFellas

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 146 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st September 1990

Box Office Worldwide: $46.8M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 66 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 8.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Jimmy Conway, as Henry Hill, as Tommy DeVito, as Karen Hill, as Paul Cicero, as Morris Kessler, as Frankie Carbone, as Tuddy Cicero, as Sonny Bunz, as Frenchy, as Billy Batts, as Anthony Stabile, Catherine Scorsese as Mrs. DeVito - Tommy's Mother, as Karen's Mother, Gina Mastrogiacomo as Janice Rossi, as Sandy, as Spider, Samuel L. Jackson as Stacks Edwards, Charles Scorsese as Vinnie, as Rosie, as Parole Officer

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Advertisement
Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.