Martin Scorsese may be considered the best candidate for making a Mafia-style crime-drama. He spent his childhood as a bystander in New York City’s Little Italy; watching the various Cosa Nostra figures (similar to the childhood of Henry) and growing up around similar characters give the film a sense of believability.
As I stated in a previous review, the 1990s were a great decade for film. GoodFellas revolutionized the gangster genre; it is not an excessively serious film, like “The Godfather,” and it possesses some unusual crime-drama aspects: comical characters, humorous scenes, glamor…etc.
While watching GoodFellas, you get a certain desire to be apart of this lifestyle…that is until you get to the end. Unlike other Mafia movies that seem to evaporate while you watch, this film remains burnt into your memory. There will always be a few bytes of my memory dedicated to this film – It could be the exceptional acting, setting or the period music that Scorsese uses (The Harptones, Jerry Vale…etc.).
I think the main reason why this film is so good is the overall quality; the characters, the clothes, the heists and plot are all completely believable. Although the introduction tells us that it is based on a true story, guys like Pesci, De Niro, Liotta and Sorvino give us a better understanding than if you read about it. Much of the film reminds me of my own Italian heritage – the banquet halls filled with people you have never met and the Sunday get-togethers where your forced to sit at the kids table.
Scorsese has always used similar actors in his films, examples being Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (two main characters in this film) who worked side-by-side in “Raging Bull” and “Casino.” Not only does this help show what talent these actors have, but it also shows the style of film they excel at. For all those who have seen “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” I found it strange to see Pesci in it. Going from his 100+ f*** word dialogue to a kids film shows how good of an actor he is, but more importantly, it shows how the gangster genre is perfect for his character.
“GoodFellas” has a plot, but the films main goal is to show the life of a “wise-guy.” In most of Scorsese’s films, he likes to show characters becoming unhinged, insecure and deranged; “Taxi Driver” shows the effects of seeing crime and scum on a daily basis, “Casino” shows high amount of marital stress and ‘GoodFellas” shows the stressors caused from a life of danger, crime and drugs.
The film is narrated by our main character, Henry (Ray Liotta). Similar to Scorsese’s own upbringing, Henry witnesses the life of low-level wise-guys and begins to fantasize about it. Told in the first sentence of the film: “As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a gangster.”
As Henry gets older and more involved in the life, he gets into drugs and women. As I stated above this is a classic Scorsese style. Much of the film shows character downfall; in the beginning we see how glamorized the life is (cars, women, clothes, money) but as the story progresses all goes to waste.
I’m not going to give away the plot to this film, it is too good to spoil. Overall, its is a cinematic adventure that you will never forget (if your into gangster films, that is). It is highly quotable, something you can repeatedly watch and still get as much enjoyment. This is in my top 10 and I think it will always be.