In this series I will be viewing then reviewing classics, some I have seen before others I have not, to see if they are worth the hype. By classics I mean any films that are at least ten years old and are rated a ‘must watch’ and ‘fresh’ on metacritic and rotten tomatoes respectively – somewhat arbitrary I know but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Seeing as Goodfellas is 30 years old, meets the must watch and fresh criteria (96% on RT and 90% on MT) and is on netflix what better place to start.
Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on Martin Pileggi’s book Wise Guy, Goodfellas details the life of Henry Hill – Ray Liotta – and his journey towards becoming a big time gangster. He starts out parking cars and selling fags then slowly but surely the lucrative killing and robbing begins with the help of fellow psychopaths Jimmy – Robert De Niro, Tommy – Joe Pesci and the big cheese Paulie – Paul Sorvino. You are introduced to their way of life and how they got there. You are shown the people, the places, the power they yield, the girls on their arm and the glamorous life they lead. They seemingly have it all. It is a violent and perilous way to live and you are shown the giddy highs and the dangerous lows across three decades. All smiles, laughs and camaraderie one minute then hatred, murder and mayhem the next. Ecstasy after a successful heist then paranoia, greed and brutal backstabbing.
It is an engrossing tale that does not shy away from swearing and violence, showing it in a matter of fact almost blaise fashion. Whilst this may be off putting it aptly demonstrates how different their lives are, how twisted and upside down their morals and codes of conduct are. Also, what else were you fucking expecting. It is terrifically acted, particularly Joe Pesci whose portrayal of the unhinged psycho Tommy deservedly won him an oscar, and wonderfully crafted. Scorsese seduces you to the glitz and glamour with slow, luxurious shots and glossy 50s pop like ‘Sincerely’ by The Moonglows and ‘Then He Kissed Me’ by The Crystals. When the mood changes so does the music, when people are getting whacked left right and centre up pops the melancholic piano outro of ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos. When the flm descends into frantic, drug induced paranoia the debauched ‘Monkey Man’ by The Rolling Stones is blasted out accompanied by quick, jerky camera shots.
Scorsese takes you by the hand into the world of crime, doing so with the expected level of style and panache. Built on avarice, brotherhood, brutality and violence Goodfellas is an enthralling watch and definitely worth the plaudits. Also it is not a three and a half hour slog with distracting effects like his latest crime drama The Irishman.