If there’s anything you should remember about Casino, it’s the scene near the beginning where we follow the money through the neon-lit gambling floors and highly-secure vaults, where dutiful casino staff flicker through hundred dollar bills and greedy gangsters steal off the top. It’s a meticulously crafted, delightful scene and sets up just how many backhand deals and ruthless mob bosses get a cut of every poker chip and how pretty much everything is sprinkled with crime in Las Vegas.
But in a city of shucksters and lowlifes, Robert De Niro’s Sam Rothstein is the only one with a little sense of integrity. He plays the character with a cool, calm-collectedness, a departure from the seething anger that defined him in movies like Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Even when everything is falling apart, Rothstein never overtly loses his temper, never shouts or fusses but always keeps his cool, except for when he gets denied his gaming license, but who could blame him. The antithesis to Rothstein are his close confidantes turned enemies, wife Ginger (Sharon Stone) and best friend Nicky (Joe Pesci.) Pesci is great but pretty much plays the same role he did in Goodfellas. Sharon Stone, however, is spectacular, throwing every fiber of herself into Ginger, flailing like a mad men and crying like a tortured psychopath or abuse victim. She is pure emotion heated up to the 1,000th degree, a shining star that never fades out among the lights of the Strip.
If the performances weren’t reason enough to watch this movie, we also get stellar direction from Martin Scorsese, with his trademark baby boomer jams meshing perfectly with jump cuts and bloody beatdowns. One thing that stands out in Casino, though, is that Scorsese makes us legitimately feel as if we are there in the room with Rothstein, trudging by his shoulder on the casino floor. The camera isn’t so much a silent observer in this movie as an active participant, and it adds a thrilling new dimension to the beat downs present.
The movie is a bit long, in all honesty a solid 30 minutes of it could be cut and it wouldn’t suffer. But like any Vegas seasoned tourist knows, time flies quickly in Sin City, and Casino is sadly over before you know it.