Casino ★★★★½

"I mean, God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal."

A journey as ambitious and sprawling as his previous mobster film, Martin Scorsese's lengthy epic crime film 'Casino' may not strike every viewer as powerfully as some of his other films but it's still incredibly strong with a lot of staying power after all these years, even after not having personally seen it in over a decade. Scorsese paints a beautiful painting of Las Vegas here, giving us discreet glimpses into the Mafia's hold over the town throughout the 1970s and 80s and all the smoky, back room deals that made it the sprawling money haven it was at the time. The film's as fascinatingly intriguing in its secretive Mafia dealings as it is showcasing the world of Las Vegas as a whole, how it operates, the types of folks that occupy and visit the city (and why) and much, much more.

In fact, in all honesty, I think the film might've been even more entertaining if it was a straightforward tale of Ace (de Niro), either with his own criminal dealings or not, handling the day to day runnings of the casino floor and its operations. Some of my favorite sequences involve him dealing with the employees, stopping crooked thieves from casing and robbing the joint, and handling unruly customers and gamblers who refuse to listen. As utterly incredible as Sharon Stone is, I feel like cutting out her storyline and putting the focus more on Las Vegas and the casino would've been better for me - I know, I know, it's a semi-biographical tale and these characters did really exist in some form or fashion, which is the whole genesis for the tale (history's good at that sort of thing) but I think a different yet similar film would've worked just as great, if not better.

Still, with a man like Scorsese at the helm and the main cast including the effortlessly cool Robert de Niro and a wild, contentious Joe Pesci, it's impossible not to be entertained by their friendship, rivalry, downfalls and even the blunt, thematic ways they inevitably shoot themselves in the foot off principle and lose at the end of the day. They're tragically flawed characters yet you can't help but be glued to the screen when Pesci is smashing a guy twice his size in the face with a phone or as de Niro scans the casino floor and lights up another cigarette. It's a brilliant period piece of sorts and I fear that this one gets a bit buried within Scorsese's filmography when compared to some of his more critically praised and cult classic sort of films. It's a movie you absolutely don't want to sleep on, as it transports you to a deliciously exotic time and place that one could argue no longer exists. The danger and violence is as cavalier as the roll of the dice and it's a truly special work of art, this one, certainly one of my favorites from the legend.

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