Reader review: Goodfellas

2008-04-21 14:11
"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster". These are the words of narrator Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in the Martin Scorsese 1990 gangster classic, Goodfellas.

The movie looks into the life of Henry Hill from his teens stepping out of his mother’s house to his 40s, vanishing from the face of the mob. It stars Ray Liotta as the adult Henry, Joe Pesci as the crazy Tommy and Robert De Niro as their leader and mentor, Jimmy Conway. Other noted appearances come from Lorraine Bracco as the wife of Henry and Paul Sorvino as the Mob patriarch Paul Cicero. The movie spans a couple of decades as it chronicles Henry’s rise and fall. Most importantly, the movie shows the fascinating lives of the every day wise guy that was glamorised by The Godfather.

The movies itself details the destruction of a friendship, the mob way, dead or in jail. During his teens, the half Irish and Sicilian Henry Hill gets to work at the cab stand for Tuddy Cicero. It is by working at the cab stand that he meets the Irish Jimmy Conway who introduces him to a young Tommy T. The two kids grow stronger and deadlier together while under the mentorship of Jimmy. Tommy, albeit indirectly, introduces Henry to his future wife Karen. All is well for the gangsters - two high paying heists, wives and families, but all goes south when Tommy, during one of many psychotic episodes kills a guy called Billy Batts for 'bustin’ his balls’ and Henry and Jimmy are arrested. After he's release, Jimmy goes on to sell drugs against the knowledge of Paulie. Billy Batts goes gets his revenge and Henry gets arrested. While under arrest, he decides to cut a deal with the law to save himself and his family and in the process gives up Jimmy and Paulie. The movies ends with Henry picking up a newspaper outside of this new home and much like the suburb that’s under construction, so is his new life.

Scorsese does his utmost behind the camera to deliver realism that is aesthetically pleasing. His treatment of the movie reveals the grit associated with mob life in America, similar to the way John Singleton did Boys in the Hood, but with a richer story and believable characters.

Liotta gave the performance of his life and he had the support he needed to pull off one of the most vulnerable characters in the movie. Pesci adds to the realism and violence associated with mob life and De Niro, whose character is the adhesive for the plot, is spectacular.

As much as this review might seem to only focus on the main characters, everyone in the movie plays an important role. Every character is there for a purpose and is not forced in the storyline. The movie will always be the benchmark of any gangster concept, whether it is a hip hop album or video game.
- Mindlo Mindlo

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