Casino lacks focus and coherence of GoodFellas
Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Written by Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi.
Starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, and James Woods.
Opening Wednesday at Sony Cheri.By David V. Rodriguez
According to the credits, Casino has all the components of a great film: Martin Scorsese directing Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci with a script by Nicholas Pileggi. The last time these four worked together they produced GoodFellas, one of the best films of 1990.
Casino plays as if it's trying to be another GoodFellas, even at the expense of its own story. The characters played by Robert DeNiro (Ace) and Joe Pesci (Nicky) are significantly different from their respective characters in the earlier film, but they are played in nearly exactly the same way. This often misleads the audience because the characters do things that we would not expect from them. In one scene, Ace makes himself the host of television interview show. This may seem ludicrous to people who are familiar with DeNiro's past roles, and even after seeing the movie it will not be any more believable because DeNiro doesn't create a character consistent with the script.
Casino's major problem is that it is incredibly boring. And at nearly three hours, this is a serious complaint. The script tries to cover too much, causing the first twenty minutes to sound more like documentary than drama. To tell as much as possible, a large part of the first hour is narration, most of which is unneeded. Either it tells us things we don't need to know (which only confuses us), or it tells when it should show.
The story is centered around Ace's problems as a casino manager. His license is coming up for review by the state, and his past as a bookmaker and the actions of his friend, Nicky, are potential problems. Ace wants Nicky to stay out of trouble, but Nicky has larger plans for Vegas. When bodies start turning up, both Ace and Nicky are in the spotlight.
This conflict alone would be enough to make an interesting movie, but it is often pushed aside in favor of the problems between Ace and his wife, Ginger (Sharon Stone). Ginger is described as the most beautiful woman in Vegas. Ace marries her to settle down, but she doesn't take well to her new life and she is driven to heavy drinking and drug use. They fight constantly; she wants to leave him but he won't give her the money she needs to be on her own. This story line has potential, but it doesn't live up to it because Stone's character is thin and completely predictable.
Ginger does serve to add tension to the story, but it is less than that which she takes away from the more interesting conflict between Ace and Nicky. Casino would be a better movie if her role was minor or non-existent. Like Ginger, the movie is well made and looks good; but here the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Simply put, a lot of its good stuff goes nowhere.