Given the number of truly great Mafia movies over the years it would be a brave soul who classed GoodFellas
as the best. But surely we can all agree that it is, at the very least, first among equals. Martin Scorsese took the factual details of mobster Henry Hill's life, as written by author Nicholas Pileggi, and turned it into a cinematic experience that has burnt itself indelibly into the consciousness of every viewer, and which now forms a touchstone in the lexicon of film and TV-making (what is The Sopranos
if not GoodFellas: The Soap
?) For aficionados it's a virtuoso exercise in filmmaking, showcasing remarkable and innovative use of steadicam shots, freeze-frame, voice-over narration, editing and incidental music (you'll never be able to listen to "Layla" the same way again). Every would-be hotshot director from Quentin Tarantino to Doug Liman to Jon Favreau has paid homage to it.
But above all that, it's an extraordinarily visceral, gripping and thoroughly enjoyable piece of storytelling as we witness the glory days of organised crime from the protagonist's viewpoint; then, abruptly after one bloody murder too far, we see him decline in a spiral of drugs, violence and paranoia. The principal triumvirate of Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci ("You think I'm funny? I'm here to amuse you?") and Robert DeNiro are utterly convincing as the three wiseguys. If you haven't seen it for a while, watch out for many familiar Sopranos faces in the rest of the cast, not least of course the wonderful Lorraine Bracco.
On the DVD: Finally, GoodFellas gets a worthy DVD release, with the feature presented in a new anamorphic 16:9 digital transfer, accompanied by two separate commentary tracks. Scorsese, Pileggi and other collaborators are present on a patchwork and partial track which is too disjointed to be really satisfying; fortunately on the second track, Henry Hill himself is joined by ex-FBI agent Edward McDonald to chat about their own memories of the events depicted in the movie. On the second disc there are four new documentaries which look back at the making of the picture, at its effect on other filmmakers, at Scorsese's creative process, and the true-life background to the film. A gold-plated essential item for every DVD collection. --Mark Walker
Martin Scorsese's violent true-life gangster epic which follows Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as he rises through the ranks of the Mafia. Upon turning FBI informant to help pay for his drug addiction, Hill recalls how he got started in the Mob following the $6 million robbery of a Lufthansa cargo at a New York airport. Hill and his partners, Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci), went on to rise through the ranks of the Mafia over three decades, eventually eliminating Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), the neighbourhood godfather who originally took Hill under his wing. Joe Pesci won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.