I’ve only recently watched Goodfellas. Yeah I know ya’ll are gonna make fun of me for only recently watching this epic, so whatever haha throw the kitchen sink. I know some of you are gonna kill me if I add a bad review. Nah, I’m just foolin’ around. It’s a fantastic film. Harking back the days of 1960 New York City and the lingering air of crime, Goodfellas is one true depiction of what it means to be a gangster; To have started from the bottom, made it all, and lost it all. This is the all encompassing mafia film that stays true to its sicilian roots.
Goodfellas is classic Scorsese. With voice-overs, freeze frames and complex camera movements, Goodfellas is a compact film that is sensitive to the nuances of a ‘gangster’ life. Adapted from the book Wiseguys, Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill and his rise through the mafia hierarchy. The movie does well not to over-glorify the mafia and does so simply because the main character over-glorifies it himself. The movie is astute enough to suggest that the life of crime is one to be desired but there’s always a lingering feeling that the spoils of the ‘business’ are the very demons that will ensnare those who dabble in it.
The sense of buzz and commotion is ubiquitous in many of the scenes. In one scene, Johnny brings his wife to see a show where everyone’s having a joyful time. Then, his wife replies to Johnny’s statement of ‘I’m in the construction business’ with ‘I don’t think you’re in the construction business.’ Scorsese sets up an atmosphere that seems relaxed but then something as simple as a question or statemment becomes so incongruous that it completely shatters the illusion of a glorious life. We’re taken along on a ride that is infectiously attractive and yet eternally damning. Scorsese blends both perspectives, creating a film that’s the ‘Don’ of all mafia films in its own right.
Powered by the performances of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Goodfellas is a star-studded affair. All of them were identifiable types and although they were scumbags in their own ways, they weren’t all of the same mold. And they drew our sympathy too. Joe Pesci’s Tommy was the least likeable but his desperate attempts to conceal his dirty dwellings from his mother is remarkably heart-breaking. Ray Liotta’s Henry however garners more sympathy. He’s a man moulded by his environment and misled by a romanticized ideal. In trying to make himself a somebody out of a nobody, Henry is a reflection of our own inadequacies. To see the characters throwing a ball party of sorts after a major raid or laugh off shooting a waiter for kicks simply implies the systemic nature of unconscionable violence. Martin Scorsese smashes the mafia ‘habitus'(lifestyles and dispositions) with style and grit.
Although not as gritty as the Godfather trilogy in my view, Goodfellas is still a fantastic film. I’ve always liked mafia films because somehow livin’ vicariously as a gangster is so attractive. This one made me love the genre even more.
Rating: 9/10 An excellent film that’s brilliant in from the script to the acting to Marty’s directing.