Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Casino - 10th Anniversary Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Robert De Niro as Sam 'Ace' Rothstein
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna/Rothstein
Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro
James Woods as Lester Diamond
Don Rickles as Billy Sherbert
Alan King as Andy Stone
Kevin Pollak as Phillip Green
L.Q. Jones as Pat Webb
Dick Smothers as Senator
Frank Vincent as Frank Marino
John Bloom as Don Ward
Pasquale Cajano as Remo Gaggi
Melissa Prophet as Jennifer Santoro
Bill Allison as John Nance
Vinny Vella as Artie Piscano

Special Features:
Casino: The Story

Casino: The Cast and Characters

Casino: The Look

Casino: After the Filming

Deleted Scenes

Vegas and the Mob

History Alive: True Crime Authors: Casino with Nicholas Pileggi

Moments with Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Nicholas Pileggi and More

Production Notes

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hours 59 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1995. The following is the description from the DVD cover:

"Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci star in director Martin Scorsese's riveting look at how blind ambition, white-hot passion and 24-karat greed toppled an empire. Las Vegas 1973 is the setting for this fact-based story about the Mob's multi-million dollar casino operation where fortunes and lives were made and lost with a roll of the dice."

Casino is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive strong language, drug use and some sexuality.

The Movie:
I had seen little bits of Casino here and there over the years, but I don't think I had ever sat down and watched the entire movie until this DVD arrived. I've enjoyed many of Martin Scorsese's films, but I haven't revered him the way many critics and fans have. That being said, I think Casino is an interesting character drama that has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses.

The biggest strength of Casino is that it is based on a true story. If it hadn't been based on real events, the story would have almost been too preposterous or over the top to believe. Casino documents the activities of key Mob figures in Las Vegas in the 70's. It details the politics, the corruption, the cheating, and other shady dealings that went on. It also details the violent crimes that took place. What's odd is that the movie seems to look at it all with a sense of fondness for the good old days before Vegas was cleaned up. It's kind an odd perspective to have as you're watching a man have his head crushed in a vise or someone being beaten to death with a baseball bat. Still, it's an interesting look at what was going on behind the scenes during that era.

The other strength of Casino is the acting. The cast featured a number of A-List stars that all delivered fine performances. Robert De Niro plays Sam 'Ace' Rothstein, a Mobster who is assigned to run a legitimate casino in Vegas. His no nonsense approach to the business makes him an appealing character. You almost wonder how successful he would have been in business without the Mob. A key part of the story is his relationship with Sharon Stone as Ginger. Stone goes through a dramatic transformation in the movie from spirited, beautiful hustler to drug addicted, depressed psycho. The movie really chronicles her life as is slowly heads down the drain. Then you have Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro, the ultra-violent psychotic enforcer for the Mob. Pesci is pretty convincing as a murderous psychopath. As for the rest of the cast, you have excellent performances by James Woods as Lester Diamond, Don Rickles as Billy Sherbert, Alan King as Andy Stone, L.Q. Jones as Pat Webb , and Kevin Pollak as Phillip Green. You even have Dick Smothers in a brief cameo as a senator. In fact, quite a few of the supporting cast members were comedians in a previous life, but they're all quite serious here.

While the script does a good job detailing the relationships between the characters and offering up good dialogue, it did have one glaring problem - the profanity. IMDb states that the word "f**k" is said 422 times, including in the narration. That's 2.4 times per minute on average. If you remove one single word (besides a, an, and the) and the script suddenly becomes 422 words shorter, this should be the indicator of a problem. Pesci alone manages to use it as a noun, an adjective, and a verb in every way imaginable. I know they were trying to depict realistic Mob dialogue, but it was over the top. The film is also a bit long. At a three hour running time, I think an hour could have easily been removed from it and it would have been just as good.

I should also note the music in the film. Scorsese uses a number of recognizable tunes from the era, all of which fit the moods of the scenes perfectly. Combine this with the costumes that change from the 70's to the 80's and it helps to plant you firmly in that era.

The Extras:
There are quite a few bonus features on this DVD, but most of them are rather brief despite there being two discs. Here are the highlights:

Casino: The Story - Screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi details how he came up with the idea for the book, how he pitched it to Scorsese, how he got the cooperation of the real life mob figures, and more. It's an interesting tale, but it's only the first part of the story of the making of the movie.

Casino: The Cast and Characters - This featurette continues the story by detailing how everyone was cast in the movie. It turns out De Niro was key in getting the real life mobsters to cooperate. A lot of time is spent with Sharon Stone and how she agonized over how to deliver the best performance she could. Scorsese also talks about casting all of the comedians in the film. There's even a little bit about the cameos in the film including one by his mother.

Casino: The Look - This portion of the story details the real casino they used for filming, the set designs, and the costumes. An amazing amount of attention went into the details of all these items.

Casino: After the Filming - This final featurette discusses the editing of the movie, the music, and the reaction to the film when it was released. Stone also talks a bit about her Golden Globe win and her Oscar nomination.

Deleted Scenes - There are only three or four deleted scenes, and they are almost more outtakes than deleted scenes. You see the director and crew milling around or talking during some of them. One shows Scorsese directing his mother in her cameo. Another shows Don Rickles clowning around. A third scene shows a younger Nicky Santoro before he went to Vegas. The final deleted scene shows Nicky and one of his other goons telling a story in a bar. All in all, there's not much here, but at three hours running time you have to think there aren't many deleted moments.

Vegas and the Mob - This is probably the most interesting of the bonus features. It details the history of Las Vegas and the Mob. From the earliest days of Vegas up to recent corporate takeovers, they detail a lot. There are even bloody pictures of Mob hits on various characters like 'Bugsy' Malone. The mayor of Las Vegas is interviewed and it turns out he used to defend mobsters in murder trials there. He comes across as a slick slimeball who still acts like his clients were innocent. He almost celebrates the mobsters he defended.

History Alive: True Crime Authors: Casino with Nicholas Pileggi - This is an episode from a TV series from the History Channel. In it, they interview Nicholas Pileggi about his Casino novel. They reenact many of the events portrayed in the film and they also have interviews with the real mobsters that the movie was based on. It's interesting, but a bit repetitive after having seen the movie.

Moments with Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Nicholas Pileggi and More - This is a commentary, of sorts. They take audio interviews with Sharon Stone, Scorsese, and others and splice it together to go over the movie. Sometimes they discuss what's on the screen, sometimes not. It's informative, but it would have been more fun if they watched the movie and recorded the commentary at the same time. The glaring absence of De Niro and Pesci from the bonus features is especially noticeable here.

The Bottom Line:
If you're a fan of Scorsese, De Niro, Stone, or Pesci, then Casino movie is required viewing for you. If you like movies about the Mob, this will really please you as well. But if you have a problem with violence or language or if you're expecting a lot of action, this isn't for you.

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