Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Lorraine Bracco and Ray Liotta
GOODFELLAS (1990). Director: Martin Scorsese.

As a boy Henry Hill (Christopher Serrone) admires the mobsters in the neighborhood who play by their own rules (unlike the "suckers") and goes to work for them. As an adult, Henry (Ray Liotta of The Son of No One) realizes he can only go so far because he is part Irish and not full Italian. In spite of this, he makes lots of money and marries a dead-common but feisty gal named Karen (Lorraine Bracco). Henry reports to Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) but his main pals and associates are Jimmy (Robert De Niro) and the psychotic Tommy DeVito (Oscar-winning Joe Pesci). Henry risks Paulie's wrath when he goes against his orders and gets into the drug trafficking business ... 

Paul Sorvino
One thing you have to say about Goodfellas: it is not a dull movie and it is very well-acted by the entire cast. Although many mob films seem to glamorize the mafia, only an idiot can look at this movie and envy the gross lives of the characters who may for a time live in beautiful homes and have lots of moola but generally wind up dead or with long, long jail sentences. While I've no doubt much of the film, based on Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy (from Hill's recollections) is true, I also wouldn't doubt that Hill made himself out to be "nicer" than other mobsters and did his best to add to the alleged "glory" of his slimy legend. Entering the witness protection program (from which he was later thrown out), he became a minor celebrity for morons.

Robert De Niro
Goodfellas is undeniably entertaining and well-done, but one has to remember that its basic story -- the rise of a young man in the rackets -- is as old as the hills. The film offers an inside look into the stories of repellent low lives, but Goodfellas doesn't really have any more depth than, say, 1961's Portrait of a Mobster. Of course, when the lead character is a reptile like Hill you can hardly expect much humanism. Goodfellas is completely absorbing, but it's also depressing. Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci all collaborated on Raging Bull ten years earlier.

Verdict: There really is no honor among thieves. ***. 


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I like this movie a lot but have not seen it in a long time. You are right, it is glossy, slick and a bit superficial, but oh so stylish, and the actors are great. Ray Liotta's best...

William said...

Agreed. He was terrific in the movie.