Thursday, February 21, 2013

Goodfellas = Best Gangster film of all time!

What do you think is the greatest gangster film ever made? I know a lot of people would pick The Godfather. I love the Godfather franchise. And there have been plenty of other gangster films that have been made since, which are just as good. Mobsters, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, Eastern Promises, Donnie Brasco, Gangster Squad, Infernal Affairs, are just a few of these films which all possess a certain individual quality which make them fantastic in their own way. But the one that stands out above the rest is Goodfellas. This is a film I watch at least once a week. No matter how many times I watch it, I just fall more and more in love with it. This is my favourite gangster film because I believe the story behind Henry Hill is extremely gritty and that is portrayed perfectly on screen. Now I do love how the Godfather movies are romanticised and the story slowly unfolds with great dialogue and direction. But Goodfellas is fast paced, and every scene is relevant and gets straight to the point. It grabs you by the balls and takes you on the fastest rollercoaster you can imagine, and while you are venturing into the unknown, you love every surprise that is thrown at you. 

I think the story of Henry Hill is very interesting, and watching documentaries and interviews of him, have been a real eye opener. It is awesome being able to see the real face of Henry Hill and how these experiences shaped him as a gangster and as a man. Ray Liotta really captured this man's personality on screen perfectly. While he was involved with the mob, he wasn't stupid, regardless of how much cocaine he was putting up his nose. He was very clever and very cautious, and I think in some ways that is how he managed to escape anyone's major wrath. I thought Liotta's portrayal of Hill's downward spiral was intriguing and brilliant. Here you see a man who is young, has connections, is successful and from the outside he seems like he has it all together. But like every mob story, you get too deep, one way or another and then the downfall begins. And in Hill's case the drugs whether he was taking them or selling them in prison were his major downfall. You can also see how dead inside Hill appears, just by his body language. When he was successful and respected he had confidence in his walk and the way he interacted with everyone. But as the respect dies you could see his confidence drift away and it was replaced with paranoia. 

Robert De Niro's portrayal of Jimmy Conway was a damn interesting portrayal. Why? Because at the beginning of this film, he is such a likeable guy. Sure he is a tiny bit of a hot head, but you like his charm. But as the film progresses and these goodfellas get deeper into this mob life, you see him slowly change. It isn't really noticeable the first time you watch it. But with more viewings you see him slowly progress into this character which you don't like, and you see his vile side slowly unleash. I think it was clever direction from Scorsese as well as perfect acting from De Niro to make you like a character and then have your opinion drastically change within several scenes. That is effective, and you have to be a great director and actor to achieve that with your audience. 

I really enjoy this scene because not only do we see Henry at his weakest but now he really realises what kind of vile shark Jimmy is. And while he may have been fucked up because of the cocaine, he realises if he doesn't rat on Jimmy he will be dead. End of story. 

There will never be enough words that can describe just how fucking amazing Joe Pesci's portrayal of Tommy DeVito is. He is a god damn hot head, he is a rabid dog, he just has so many awful qualities about himself, which can't help but find entertaining and intriguing. While he does have brains, at times he loses sight of that and lets his anger and rage boil over into voice of reason, and does things, he knows he will probably regret later. Whether he admits that to anyone else is another matter though. When you have a character like Tommy in any gangster film, you know what is going to happen to them, because they are a liability. Sure they are great to have around for a while, but when they start to cause trouble to the point you cannot control their actions, and their actions can affect you, what do you do? YOU GOTTA GET THEM WHACKED. Joe Pesci is entertaining as fuck in this film, but you do see the natural progression of this film and his character and as much as you want to see him still on screen, he has to be killed off. I do not think anyone can top this performance in terms of 'hot head' characters. Joe Pesci is the ultimate hot head, whether the films are gangster related or comedy. He plays that part beautifully. 

This is hands down my favourite scene in the whole film. It really shows off Joe Pesci's acting chops. He really portrays Tommy DeVito as aggressive and extremely unpredictable. I could just imagine how the tension would make anyone's skin crawl and make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Even though Pesci is a little guy, his attitude as DeVito just gets everyone's attention and makes him become larger than life. 

One of the most important things I found really added to the mood of the film, was the music that was chosen for certain scenes. I think in terms of choosing music for a movie, Scorsese is one of the best, no question. The song 'Rags to Riches' by Tony Bennett really sets the tone for the film. Because we see the early life of Henry Hill and how he got involved with gangsters from such an early age, and how this is who he wanted to be. He looked up to these men, and he believes if he was like them, he would be successful, envied and most of all respected. I thought another great use of music was used when all the dead bodies turn up in different places as the song 'Layla' by Derek and the Dominos is playing. It just seems like odd music to put with such morbid scenes, but man it works so well with the visuals. But my favourite use of the music is 'Jump into the Fire' by Harry Nilsson, as Henry is going on his crazy, paranoid road trip around the city, trying to avoid the helicopter he believes is following him. 

Another of my favourite scenes is when Henry is out on bail and he is looking for the drugs that Karen flushed down the toilet before the police raided their house. Those drugs were worth a lot of money and really was the only thing that could get them out of a slump financially. And in this scene you see Henry and Karen yelling at one another, before finally crying in defeat. Here we see them at their most weakest and pathetic point in their lives. But regardless of every shitty thing that Henry has done, Karen is still there and if his life is crumbling, she will be by his side. They collapse on the floor together and just hold each other. No one cares about them now, all they have is each other. I tried finding a decent video of this scene but alas, I got nothing. But I am sure all you Goodfellas fans know which scene I am talking about and how powerful it is. 

Goodfellas is a powerful piece of cinema, and in my opinion is flawless. It never gets old, or stale and it has aged amazingly well. There were so many different roles in this film, and whether they were big or small, you noticed everybody. They all had their part to play, and it added to the realism of the film. I find that Goodfellas is the most raw of the gangster movie genre. The pace is fast, the story telling is brutally honest and simple and as far as direction goes, no one could have made this film better than Scorsese. And in my opinion, this is hands down his best work. Now while these guys were gangsters, they were real men too, and at times you could see the vulnerability in each of them, but you would see it in different ways. This film has some of the best dialogue I have ever seen. It isn't forced, it doesn't drag along and every line that is spoken, seems to fit perfectly. Nothing is out of place. I am very interested in mob history and I find it incredibly intriguing. When I see documentaries or read books on mobsters, the one film I am always reminded of is Goodfellas. It just seems that this film could be one of the best portrayals of real life gangsters. While these kind of men usually have a dramatic downfall or demise, for a short time they are on top of the world. And seeing that portrayed on screen so realistically is such a delight. 

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