Wednesday 24 April 2013

GoodFellas (1990)

This is a story about a guy who gets into crime - organised crime and killing people crime - not reluctantly or through necessity, but because he thought that life would be cool, fun and easy.  And it turned out he was entirely right.  It's an appealing story, and a true one.  He and his wife would have gotten away with it for as long as they lived, had they not grown so very careless and full of drugs.

Rob Reed gave me his copy of the film at the same time he passed me 'Taxi Driver' (1976), and since I've also watched 'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988), Martin Scorsese joins Peter Jackson, Peter Greenaway and Fritz Lang in the circle of most-watched directors on this blog.  This is probably the longest of the three films, and the one with the most humour and the most violence.  It's a toss-up, though, which of the three is the bloodiest.

Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) borrows a knife from his mother (Catherine Scorsese)
Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, who throws himself into the criminal lifestyle, and finds that it pays exceedingly well.  Unlike 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex' (2008), there's no suggestion here that the crimes are particularly benign or well-motivated, but it's clearly a better career move than brick-laying.  For the most part he seems a nice guy, but he laughs too long at acts of unprompted brutality - indeed, he seems to laugh almost deliberately at these, not with mirth, but to be seen laughing.  He works his way up from errand boy to crime boss, reluctantly goes on an awful date with a woman called Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who, since she's far more bold and interesting than she first appears, goes on to be his partner in crime and wife.

Like Hugh Griffith in 'Ben-Hur', Joe Pesci got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor here simply by being fantastically entertaining.  His role seems at times like the comic relief, but is really more exciting and disturbing than that.  He's persistent, almost flamboyantly vicious, and enjoyably short, and seems to speak constantly and magnificently.  As you may tell, I found him to be the film's great highlight.  Robert de Niro and Samuel L. Jackson are in there too - indeed, it's a very good cast all-round, made up of people who are rightly famous, or ought to be more so.

It's directed with pace, style and tension, of course, and the script finds some exciting ways to tell the story.  I'm sure I could have gone on for another four paragraphs, had I written this up immediately after watching it, but you got lucky as I left it so long, dear reader.  Most of what I now remember are twists, lines, images.  In short, the things you'd be better off discovering for yourself by watching the film.  I try not to spoil these things for you.

P.S. I'll be back this weekend with 'Persepolis' (2007), and then I'll probably have to watch some more movies, or I will have run out of stuff to tell you about.

P.P.S. This isn't strictly-speaking true.  I could tell you about 'The Last Remake of Beau-Geste' (1977) or 'The Baby of Macon' (1993) or 'Das weiße Band' (2009) or 'Ted' (2012), but we've done those years already, and I'm keen to push on towards the hundred-different-years goal.

So, yeah.  Here's the bit where I show you how you can legitimately watch the thing.

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