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Goodfellas (1990)

Murderers come with smiles.

Directed by:

Martin Scorsese

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 145 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Goodfellas. Mafiosi. Gangsters. Hoodlums. Swellguys. Da Mob. Whatever you choose to call them, Hollywood has long been fascinated with their ilk: the frighteningly well-organised crims operating behind closed doors, seemingly above the law. As far back as 1931, Mervyn LeRoy’s ‘Little Caesar’ – a tale of one man’s career aspirations within an Italian-American mob – was being released into US cinemas. From there, to the original Scarface’, to ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’, to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to The Godfather trilogy, audience appetite for a good ol’ gangster flick has seldom waned. And then, in 1990, came ‘Goodfellas’ – for this reviewer’s money, the best of the lot.

Based on screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi’s best-selling book ‘Wiseguy’, in which he interviewed and chronicled the life story of one-time Mafioso Henry Hill, this marathon Martin Scorsese epic presents arguably the most engrossing and shockingly-realistic gangland tale ever put to celluloid. Ray Liotta plays Hill through the lion’s share of three decades, from his gradual acceptance into the mob’s local branch, through his addictions to both the lifestyle and the stuff that can be bought with it, right up until what eventually looks like an inescapable demise. This isn’t a film so much about the crimes he and his pals (among them Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci) commit, but about the way he lives his life and the feeling of importance he revels in along the way.

‘Goodfellas’ received six name-checks at the 1991 Oscars (it won one, a Best Supporting Actor gong for Pesci), and it’s not difficult to see why. This is Scorsese’s best work, both violent and frightening but also thoughtful, considered and intelligent. It also features the performance of a lifetime from Liotta: his career seems to have gone off-the-rails a bit of late, but anyone in any doubt of his ability to hold an audience in his grasp need look no further than this film. Do that and you’ll never question the guy again: you’ll be too scared to.

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It's Got: A bloke in the trunk.

It Needs: To answer just one question: funny how?

DVD Extras Four documentaries (‘The Goodfellas Legacy’, ‘The Workaday Gangster’, ‘Paper Is Cheaper Than Film’ and the cleverly-titled ‘Getting Made’), a trailer, and a choice of audio commentaries (choose from either director Scorsese, selected cast and crew, or “A Cop and a Crook” in the form of former FBI Agent Edward McDonald and the real-life Henry Hill). Version reviewed: Goodfellas (Special Edition) DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Gangs Of New York, Gangs Of New York, Once Upon a Time in America, Road to Perdition, Scarface, The Godfather, The Godfather - Part II, The Godfather - Part III, The Untouchables

Summary

Bad-a-bing, bad-a-boom! Add this eye-poppingly brilliant Scorsese masterpiece to your DVD collection and you’ll have it made.

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