Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ace does fly High indeed; in Scorsese's "Casino"

It's a harrowing thing to be told of all the secrets of the desert and threatened to be buried out there yourself. The 8th film by Scorsese featuring the iconic Robert De Niro as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, "Casino" is the story of a gambling professional hired by the Midwest arm of the mob to oversee the fluid operations of the Tangiers in Las Vegas. The outfits overseen by the character in real life were the Stardust, Hacienda and Fremont casinos in the newly booming desert empire in the 1970's.

What many claim is Joe Pesci's maturely signature role, he plays the true enforcer behind the scenes, making sure that the mob gets money off the top and everyone stays in line. Rothstein's wise move of always making the right bets for the mob in the beginning really pay off (for a while) as making him a golden child of the teamsters, who are not allowed to go past Kansas City to make money.

Full of wonderfully crafted scenes that guide you through the operations, security, lavish entryways and valet areas of the casinos, the narraration splits between De Niro and Pesci perfectly, as Pesci's temper really, really starts to get the best of him. To say the least, he stomps on, intimidates, steals money from, and extends his smart middle finger in the direction of anyone who crosses him. "Goodfellas" is an obvious gangster masterpiece, with the same craft of showing you the players like illustrious mobbed up individuals with their own unique traits. The sheer fact that the blinking lights, rows of slots, and violent humor gets to go a step further here with the locale make it that much better.

 The issue of very lax gaming laws in the 1970's is the reason why Rothstein is allowed here in the first place; you could at that time operate while your license was pending. As in many other epic plots, a woman enters the scenario and changes everything. When I first saw the film I thought Sharon Stone was not going to belong, that she was hideously miscast. Nope; she is a hustler named Ginger who as Rothstein tells us "can keep a man up for days before sending him home broke and disheveled".

A hybrid of true gold digger with another bipolar side possessing a bit of heart, her ex boyfriend Lester (James Woods) is a constant thorn in Rothstein's side, and he cannot see her attraction to the loser who sometimes "doesn't have enough gas money to pick up his own check". Her and Rothstein marry, and she eventually goes down a path of addiction and deceit. Many other scandalous things happen and red flags are raised on Rothstein's gaming license; with a true to life ending of what usually happens when you try to cheat the establishment. Full of music like the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Moody Blues, there is a hardcore type of jangling going on here that can make you feel like you are eating a steak buffet at 4 in the morning.

 "Casino" is one of those depressing tales that doesn't depress you all the way, watching someone take over like Rothstein is a cinematic adventure. Webs of production don't get spun like this every day in Hollywood, and it is a trademark; a homage to a bustling time when you could stand up straight and take what you wanted if you had the balls to.

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