What makes Goodfellas (1990) such a good movie still today after 27 years? The casting of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci? The excellent soundtrack chronicling the time and the place? The beautiful shots and the mise-en scene? The answer is everything. There is nothing about this movie that I do not love. I watched the film for the first time about 10 years ago, and it was my first Martin Scorsese movie and I’ve been fan since. I found the film recently on Amazon Prime, and it kick-started current addiction with Scorsese leading to a binge of some of his past movies such as The Departed (2006) and Casino (1995) to name a few.
This film tells the story of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, and his rise and fall in the mob. It is based of a non-fiction book called Wiseguy by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, who actually co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese himself. Scorsese cast Liotta in the part after he saw him in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), in which Liotta plays an ex-convict obsessed with his ex wife. Liotta was fascinated by the book, Wiseguy, and campaigned for the film despite the studio wanting a more famous actor. Liotta obviously got the role, and even listened to FBI tapes of Hill just to get the character perfect. Co-starring in the film is Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who both play friends of Hill who are in the mob life as well. According to Pesci, he stated that they were allowed to improvise, such as the scene in which Tommy’s mother has painted the image of the beard man with the dogs, therefore showing the skill and talent of the cast. Everyone in this film is beyond outstanding and without them, the film would be nothing.
The music is something I adore, as a good soundtrack is always needed. He only wanted music that would be heard during that time, which he does successfully as the music adds to the atmosphere and makes it more immersive. Scorsese is a master of his craft, and Goodfellas is a prime example of his talent. This film shows him at his best, and displays his traits such as the long use of tracking shots, freeze-frames, New York as more than a setting and his character driven stories. I must admit, some of his more recent films have perhaps not have been my favourites, as the last film I watched of his that I really loved was The Departed. His next project is called The Irishman and will be starring De Niro, Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino so I am beyond excited for this, and this could be another masterpiece for him.
The ending of Goodfellas just perfectly sums up the whole mob life, as it’s a reference to The Great Train Robbery (1903) directed by Edwin S. Porter and basically says that violence will always be there no matter what, and it is just as true back in 1903 then it was in 1990 with Goodfellas. Hill is always going to have the life of crime behind him and will always be looking behind him as someone will find him. The film gets better every time you watch it.