Goodfellas (1990)


There’s this profanity-laden scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci, as Tommy De Vito, a nutso gangster shoots a local kid who works for the mob and goes, ‘All right so he got shot in the foot, what is it? A big fuckin’ deal?’. You can’t but grit your teeth and despise his depravity at that moment. And yet, a good forty minutes into the movie, you feel for the sorry-ass bugger as he gets his brains blown off.

And this, among many scenes in Goodfellas, is what makes it an engulfing epic of a movie, succeeding at all levels and shall most probably be remembered as Scorsese’s very best work.

In an impeccably shot bit at the ‘Copacabana’, Henry Hill waltzes past the lines waiting to get in with his girlfriend – guiding her through dark stairways and shadowy alleys, finally emerging onto the brightly-lit floor of the club, where they’re the cynosure of all eyes. To me, this was the scene that humanised the imperious, tough guy character of Hill, giving him some semblance of dignity, when you begin to see his actions as a direct result of the malignant allure of power and mob life.

Scenes unfold in irresistible succession, random brutality strewn all across. Scorcese makes you a part of Henry Hill’s ‘mobverse’ as he works his way up and then down the ranks of New York’s Mafia. Strangely enough, you aren’t offended by the scenes where these guys sit around tables, do drugs, joke about blowing people’s heads off, cheat on their wives and betray each other. Instead, you are made privy to their vicious put-downs, finding them hilarious and secretly egging them on, relishing their vile acts. 

De Niro’s riveting restraint, Liotta’s livewire performance and Pesci’s comical malevolence are all larger than life acts, nonetheless rooted in reality. It is quite possible that nobody but Scorcese could have exhorted such career-best performances from this team.

Coming a good twenty-five years after the movie, my review (which, by all standards is a complete wash-out) does zilch to add on to this cult-classic’s  prodigious accomplishments. But then in De Vito’s own words, me being me, I’d be late to my own FUCKING funeral. 

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