Screenplay by: Martin Scorsese & Nicholas Pileggi
Directed by : Martin Scorsese
Starring : Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Frank Vincent, Michael Imperioli & Paul Sorvino
Goodfellas is a gangster classic released in 1990, adapted from the novel Wiseguy based on the life on Henry Hill a real life Irish – Italian gangster involved in the Mafia. The film spans from the mid 1950’s until the 1980’s. We follow Henry Hill as he starts working for a local Mafia family as a teenager, parking cars, selling cigarettes and doing odd jobs for local mobsters. Henry and his friend Tommy Devito begin to work for a fellow Irish associate Jimmy Conway.
Henry and the crew he’s involved with quickly begin getting involved in robberies, murders and things begin to look very glamorous and exciting for them in the early stages. Henry meets his wife Karen Hill and they begin a relationship. Henry begins selling drugs and they get in over their heads in this Martin Scorsese classic that could be seen as a Godfather for the modern world.
Goodfellas is a classic! From the acting, directing, setting, writing, music all of it is spot on and so entertaining to follow these Mafia associates and made men.
Right from the opening scene Scorsese really sets the tone of the movie. Opening on Henry, Jimmy and Tommy driving at night before they hear rattling and noise from the trunk. They open it up and we see a man covered in blood and pleading for his life. Tommy stabs him several times and Jimmy shoots him a few more times just to be safe. Henry slams the boot and we freeze on his face before he utters the iconic lines “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”. A quote that people still use and know the reference to 30 years later.
This is one of the films I watched when I was about 12 or 13 and discovering Robert De Niro for the first and he shines as Jimmy (the gent) Conway. He commands the screen every single time we see him and his character feels so real and like a true “Goodfella” the mannerisms and characteristics on display by DeNiro are almost unparalleled in cinema, he proves here why he’s one of the greatest actors of all time!
The next show stealer is Joe Pesci who picked up the Academy award for best supporting actor as his turn as Tommy Devito. He’s unhinged and psychotic the entire film yet endlessly entertaining and exciting the entire time. His “what’s so funny about me” improvised scene in the film is one of the most iconic and well acted scenes in film history. Joe Pesci just may be the greatest Mafia actor in Cinematic history his roles in this, Casino and the Irishman just last year cemented his legacy as an icon of film.
The CopaCabana tracking shot scene where Henry is showing Karen the lifestyle that being involved in the Mafia can offer. The camera follows them from the car, through the backdoor and the kitchen of the Copa where everyone seems to know and respect the young Henry. Tables, chairs and drinks are brought for them right in the front row of the stage. The scene is pure cinema at its finest, the cinematography on display by Michael Ballhaus is truly incredible.
The soundtrack of the film too is top notch with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tony Bennett, Bobby in, Derek and the Dominos, Muddy waters and Cream
Let’s not forget the great Lorraine Bracco and Ray Liotta. First of all Ray Liotta gives his career defining role as Henry Hill. Liotta has been in so many great films but Goodfellas and his performance stands tall above the rest. He is Henry Hill in every sense of the word. Liotta brings such life, realness and authenticity to the role that makes his so watchable and enjoyable in every scene.
Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill is arguably her career defining role however I do see her as Dr. Melfi on the Sopranos as her greatest performance. As Karen Lorraine Bracco is incredible she is such an underrated actor she is able to show all emotions she’s vulnerable, explosive, full of love, hate and everything in between she’s such a gifted performer and it’s a pleasure to watch her in this film.
The characters are flawed, violent, murderers yet they are so likeable and entertaining to watch that we feel ourselves relating to and caring for some of these gangster characters. They seem fun to be around, they’re the live of the party, always drinking and laughing together it’s easy to see how so many people were drawn to the lifestyle. It’s only when you learn of the ruthlessness of these men that you begin to re-evaluate your feelings about these men. When you see that your friend or someone close to you is the one to walk you into a room and put a bullet in the back of your head that you see the dark side of this life as a “Goodfella“. This is where Goodfellas truly shines, we feel as if we are Henry and we’re caught up in the romanticised version of the life and as the film goes on we see the toll it takes on you and your family when you’re involved in the Mafia life.
Goodfellas is so rewatchable, entertaining and masterfully crafted by the great Martin Scorsese. Its rare that you find a flawless film but Goodfellas is such a film. It’s a film that you gotta watch at least once a year and if you see it on TV there’s no way you can change channels you’ve got to watch the remainder. One of Scorsese’s finest without a doubt!
“Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut“
-James (Jimmy) Conway