Plot: Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) built an incredible reputation as an oddsmaker, which meant when the mafia needed someone to run a casino in Las Vegas, he was a natural choice. He is a genius when it comes to numbers, likes to avoid drama, and he also looks like a legitimate businessman, a potential frontman for the Tangiers that could establish a real presence in Vegas. His right hand man Nicky (Joe Pesci) joins him on the strip and while his reputation is also impressive, his work is the kind you like to keep under the table. He is a problem solver and handles things when hands need to get messy, keeping Ace at a safe distance. While things go well at first, Nicky’s temper and reckless actions start to cause problems, then Ace falls in love with Ginger (Sharon Stone), a beautiful woman who is a constant source of concerns. As Ace tries to keep the casino running like a well oiled machine, he is under constant pressure from his personal issues, the mafia’s political machinations, and of course, the authorities in Vegas. As Ace finds himself surrounded on all sides by potential pitfalls, can he manage to keep things in check or is he in over his head?
Entertainment Value: While Casino might not be on the same level as The Godfather or Goodfellas, this is a well crafted, stylish mobster movie that boasts some powerful performances and unforgettable moments. The narrative is grand in scope and follows the interconnected stories of several prominent characters, but also serves as a look at Las Vegas lore. To be certain, Las Vegas is a character itself in Casino and Ace’s wistful remembrances help frame what the notorious locale was like back in a less corporate, more unpredictable era. The strip and the casino interiors are shown through an almost fetishistic lens, with memorable results. The visuals here are rich and stylish, which really bolsters the overall atmosphere and given Vegas’ prime role in the story, that is a crucial aspect of Casino. Of course, having Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in tailor made roles helps as well, while Sharon Stone and James Woods provide memorable supporting efforts as well. Pesci and De Niro are in roles that feel familiar, without question, but aren’t just rehashed characters. While those two are bound to get the most attention, I also loved Woods as the sleaze soaked pimp and his interactions with De Niro are quite priceless. So while Casino isn’t in that elite tier of mobster movies, it is a very good movie and well recommended.
A couple of brief topless scenes are the lone nakedness, as most of the sex scenes just tease, but keep the good bits covered up. This one has some vivid bursts of violence, including the infamous vice sequence. This includes a quick eye popping out under the pressure of the vice, as well as some splashes of crimson, While that is the scene most people talk about, I think the pen assault is even more wild. Nicky is a beast and his attacks yield some solid bloodshed. There’s also other brutal sequences, with baseball bats, suffocation, beat downs, and even people buried alive. And of course, that out of control explosion that kicks off the movie. This one has some terrific dialogue, with Ace and Nicky as consistent sources of memorable moments. The two have much different approaches to dialogue of course, but they never fail to entertain. Woods also has some sharp lines as the scummy Lester. As for craziness, Nicky is a real wildcard, but overall, Casino plays within the mobster movie rules.
Overall Insanity: 2/10