Reviewed on 2007 March 1
This is one of those rare movies that starts with a finale, and still keeps going. It’s based on what Lefty Rosenthal and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro did in Vegas (or what Tony and the mob did to Vegas, depending on your viewpoint).
Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is a bookie anointed to run the Tangiers Casino by the mob. He’s an amazingly successful gambler and was born with a head for the industry, but his hands aren’t clean and he’s worried he won’t get a license to pull this off. He’s told by Andy Stone (Alan King) to keep applying for the license, and any time the authorities started sniffing around, they’d change his job title.
They need a figurehead like Ace, who’s not even allowed in the count room of the casino. That’s where Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and other mobsters come in. The mobsters at home skimmed from the top of everything, and the insane Nicky was dispatched to babysit Ace and go after anyone threatening the status quo. Everything goes well for a while. Ace even gets the woman he loves, Ginger (Sharon Stone), to marry him. The system should work, but it all falls apart. There’s a multitude of reasons for this, but I think the primary one is that Nicky really is bats, and the feds watch him to the extent it makes everything much harder to accomplish. It doesn’t help Ace to be married to a drug-addled skank like Ginger, either.
Scorsese knows how to make a three hour movie zoom by. The direction and music are perfect here, and the acting is phenomenal. It’s also fascinating for a glimpse of glamorous Las Vegas casinos that we’ll probably never see again.
Three chocolate morsels and a cup of espresso.