"Goodfellas" DVD, Blu-ray Review

2/23/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review


Directed by Martin Scorsese, Written by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese, 146 minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Twenty years have passed since the theatrical release of "Goodfellas," a film that has gone down as one of the greatest gangster films of all time and one of the definitive films of director Martin Scorsese's career. Is it the masterpiece it's been labelled for two decades?

I think it's safe to say that it is.

Like Francis Ford Coppola did 20 years previous with "The Godfather," Scorsese presents a glimpse at the world of the mafia, but this time from outside the family, from the perspective of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who becomes a sort of enforcer or grunt worker for the Lucchese crime family of New York City. He idolized the lifestyle of the mob from the time he was a child. But the excesses, the violence, and the selfishness of the lifestyle is his and the syndicate's ultimate downfall. Like the Corleones of "The Godfather," the tragedy of "Goodfellas" is the result of greed and distrust.

It is Scorsese's glamorous portrayal of the gangster lifestyle that makes the film so effective. The film pulls you in right from the start--"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster"--and we're shown the wonders of such a life. The enormous extended family, the cash, the drugs, the women, the respect--but as the film moves along, Scorsese pulls back the layers until we can see this entertaining world for what it really is. The extended family is a group riddled with distrust, deception and betrayal. The cash breeds drugs, the drugs breed crime, and it becomes an endless cycle of squandering. The respect is only fear.

This is typical subject matter for Scorsese. The origins of violence in humanity, the nature of greed, aspiration breeding tragedy. But as in almost all Scorsese films, "Goodfellas" is also enormously entertaining.

The upbeat and quick pacing makes the nearly 2.5 hour film go by in what feels like no time at all, and the incredible and amusing performances from the vast supporting cast makes for an unnaturally fun experience, and of course one can't forget where the real power of the film comes from. Liotta, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro all give career-defining performances. Pesci will always be remembered for his hot-tempered and trigger-fingered loudmouth Tommy DeVito, and De Niro, who starts out as merely enigmatic and intriguing, becomes a real threatening presence in the latter half of the film.

It's practically pointless to really discuss any plot elements of the film--so many major moments have become iconic at this point. The tracking shot introducing the supporting characters, the murder of Billy Batts, the "How am I funny?" scene--almost every couple minutes there's another memorable moment. A lot of this has to do with the quick cutting and wild style Scorsese employs in the film, which he has described as mirroring the mindset of a typical gangster. It's one of the master director's greatest and most distinct technical achievements.

I wouldn't necessarily call it Scorsese's best film, nor the best gangster film ever made, but "Goodfellas" definitely stands among the seminal works of the genre, and its effect on modern film since its release is undeniable.

Grade: A

View the trailer for "Goodfellas" below. What are your thoughts?

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