2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Another Scorsese classic,
This review is from: Goodfellas [VHS] (VHS Tape)
No-one can portray American gangsters quite as vividly and realistically as Scorsese. He shows us the attraction that they hold for many people, the appeal of their glamour; but doesn't flinch at their violence; which is brutal, bloody, very often pointlessness, and always totally amoral.
The film follows the rise of a Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, through the criminal ranks - loan sharking, hijacking trucks, killing - until he ends up as a close and trusted associate of the 'Goodfellas' - a term that gangsters use for themselves: it means someone who can be trusted. It all turns sour when he feels that they have let him down and he turns to drug-smuggling behind the backs of his bosses, an unforgivable crime in their eyes.
The film is gripping. Scene after scene holds the eye. Despite the film's length, the pace never relents. Liotta and De Niro are excellent, but it is Joe Pesci who steals the film. Not since James Cagney in 'Public Enemy No 1' has a portrayal of a completely amoral thug been so frightening. The sense of violence bubbling under the surface of Pesci is never far away, and when it does erupt, it is quick, horrifying, but predictable.
The period of time that Goodfellas covers, 1950s to the 1980s, means that the story tends to lurch from decade to decade, creating an episodic narrative rather than the more continues flow of 'Mean Streets'. However, this is a minor criticism. The film is still a classic study of the Italian-American underworld and a great piece of film-making.