Customer Review

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stupid criminals in paradise, March 17, 2004
This review is from: Casino (DVD)
I was born in Chicago, and my father went to Stienmetz high school with Tony Spilotro, the mobster portrayed in this film by Joe Pesci. I grew up listening to stories about "the Ant" (not flattering), and when he was finally whacked, my old man (a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times) wrote what amounted to his obitiuary. In it he recalled such charming Spilotro antics as the time he threw acid at a girl who had rebuffed his advances and the time he tried to split open my dad's head, and thus prevent my birth, with a T-square during shop class. To top it off, I recently discovered my Dad's old yearbook (1955 or so), in which he and the future boss of Las Vegas are standing in true 1950s glory (slicked hair, plaid shirts, everybody wearing horn-rimmed glasses) next to each other on picture day.
So I guess you could say I had a personal interest in seeing how Marty Scorcese and his "Goodfellas" crew would tackle the subject of transplanted Chicago mobsters in the neon desert. My final verdict: they all did a hell of a job.
Pesci, as "Nicky Salerno" (all the names have been changed to protect the guilty) is just as horrifying and vicious here as he was as "Tommy DiVito" in "Goodfellas"; Pugnacious, bloodthirsty, bad-tempered, arrogant, and paranoid, but also capable of humor, loyalty and a certain weird charm. Some would say he was just playing the same character again, and yeah, he is, but he's so damn good at it, who cares?
Bobby D is superb (what else?) as "Ace Rothstien" -- the micro-managing, ego-maniacial Chicago handicapper and casino boss who trades in on his friendship with mobsters to become a big time player in Vegas, and promptly realizes he's let the snake in the manger. Nicky is what mobsters call a "Cowboy" -- a crazy, reckless hoodlum who thinks with his fists (or his gun, or the sharp end of a pen, or a telephone, or whatever's handy) and creates more wreckage than profit. He also attracts the attention of the Feds and the Nevada Gaming Commission, who soon make Ace's life miserable, and more importantly, begin to interfere with the Mob's ability to "skim" Casino profits back to Chicago. And if you know anything about the Outfit (as it is called there), you know N - O - B - O - D - Y is going to interfere with their profits and get away unscathed.
"Casino" is one of those movies where you watch bad guys get their hands on something really big, and drive it straight into the ground. Things blow up, people get beaten and whacked, fortunes are made and squandered, and monster egos crash against each other like bumper cars. There are many similiarities to "Goodfellas" except the stakes are much higher, and like "Goodfellas" there is not a character you really can root for -- Ace is miserly, controlling, egocentric and arrogant, Nicky is a straight up homicidal maniac, and Stone's character is your typical scheming, treacherous hooker-hustler. A lot of people felt this movie was the same thing, with the same cast, done not quite as well, and indeed, "Casino" is not as good as "Fellas" but it is a very good movie all the same. If "Fellas" had never been made, this might be a top-5 Mob movie of all time. I recommend it to anyone with a gangland fetish, 80's nostalgia and strong stomach.
And by the way, the actor Frank Vincent, who gets revenge on Pesci in this film (with a baseball bat) for twice getting the best of him in previous Scorsese movies ("Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas"), actually bears a stronger resemblance to the real Tony Spilotro than Joe Pesci does....wierd.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 17, 2010 1:18:22 PM PDT
D.M.B. says:
Excellent read, and frank review! Sucked me in with the opening story, how your father knew the actual character Pesci plays, that was cool. I agree with your review as well...yes it's a GoodFellas part duex of sorts, but who cares given the fact that we can enjoy these performers, performing in this genre with the same director again.

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 4:43:11 AM PDT
Boz says:
Great story about Dad. I heard from other people that old Rothstein may he rest in peace, was actually a very nice person and really just wanted to do business and manage the Casino as the movie depicted. I was glad to hear he lived out his life and got out of the clutches of the Tony Spilotros of the scene.

Posted on Jul 24, 2011 10:20:22 PM PDT
John Quays says:
nice review. I personally did not enjoy Goodfellas yet i thought Casino was a masterpiece.

Posted on Dec 23, 2011 4:12:58 PM PST
Mad Russian says:
I was highly amused to find out from the Wikipedia article on Tony Spilotro that it was his brother, Dr. Pasquale Spilotro, Jr. a respected oral surgeon in Chicago, who identified his remains from dental x-rays. This is par for the course for Italian immigrant families. Most Italian Americans have traveled a lawful path toward assimilation and middle class well being; nevertheless, nearly every Italian American I know seems to have at least one relative like Tony the Ant whom nobody bothers to invite for Easter dinner.

Posted on Dec 6, 2013 7:49:16 PM PST
JNagarya says:
This is much better than "Goodfellas": it is too easy to take the latter as humorous; and considering the source, one can't be certain its original author wasn't falsifying.

Posted on Mar 19, 2014 7:44:39 AM PDT
Incredible review. I also have met people who knew The Ant. Said he was a real piece of work. I love this movie as well. I can watch it over and over and never get tired of it. A timeless classic IMO.
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