Casino (1995) is Martin Scorsese’s best film. The writer of an outline to his book-to-be, sold Scorsese on the idea. When word got out in the Hollywood trade magazines that Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, etc, were involved in a new Scorsese film, that’s when real-life mobsters started opening up.
For example, according to Scorsese in his comments & extras to the film, Robert De Niro spent days with the mobster portrayed as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein at his Florida home, getting him to tell stories about what happened in the Las Vegas underworld back then. De Niro tape recorded all the discussions which were invaluable in fleshing out the final script. All the names were changed in the film & book, but the essence of the story rings true.
When it all came together, Scorsese had a screenplay and was shooting before the original author had finished the book, which wouldn’t have been anywhere as interesting if it hadn’t been made into a movie first. I don’t know any other significant Hollywood film like that.
Casino has its flaws, primarily the glorification of the American mafia. All of Martin Scorsese’s mob films, from Mean Streets (1973) to The Irishman (2019), have a technical artistry that is marred by apologizing for violent criminal gangs which act as hidden parasites in the overall economy.
Waste management, construction, restaurants, the NY Port Authority, real estate, the police, etc, are areas the American mafia still exercises significant pernicious influence while skimming revenue & resources for itself. Mafia expertise in gambling, narcotics, prostitution, etc, ensures its eternal presence in management and in the trenches. Martin Scorsese never makes an attempt to add up these social costs from an everyday worker perspective.
To Scorsese, blue collar workers are dumb suckers meant to be exploited by his glorified mobsters. The sins of a mafia don can always be forgiven with an “Oh well” philosophy, that at least they tried for something great under American capitalism, emphasizing their spirit of entrepreneurship in their corruption, etc. These goombas ran casinos, they were big-shots! Better to live a short & glorious life of debauchery before dying in a pool of blood, than working hard and being honest. That’s for chumps.
It appears unlikely that Martin Scorsese has seriously read Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab, first published in 2005, which is considered the definitive historical reference book on the subject. Raab documents a much different view of the American mafia from Scorsese.
In many ways, from Taxi Driver (1974) & Raging Bull (1980) through Goodfellas (1990) & Gangs of New York (2002), Scorsese keeps making the same movie. At minimum they’re very similar– same storylines, motifs, styling, and actors. The fact that gangsters contributed significantly in the creative process of making (what most consider) his best movie, says something. It means Martin Scorsese is void, artistically.
The bankruptcy of his ethics & political ideology limit him. Despite all his schooling & technical expertise in film-making, along with his experience & the resources made available to him, it mostly adds up to (what feels like) sequels that are sadistic, difficult to watch, and not rewarding on repeated viewings.
As Casino points out at the end in a De Niro voice-over, all the casinos & trade unions have now been corporatized, but mobster influence remains. Union bosses & apparatchiks have their share of goombas slurping up high-salary, no-show jobs & perks. Furthermore, whenever strikebreakers are needs to attack worker pickets and escort scabs across lines, that’s when the fascist thugs are brought in by corporate. The US government supports these attacks on workers, and always has.
So what does Martin Scorsese have to say to all the Hollywood writers & actors who are currently picketing for basic rights such as fair-pay-for-their-work & healthcare? Is Scorsese going to make a movie in a few years about how mobsters coordinated their goon-squad attacks on Hollywood writers & actors to break their strike? Personally, I’m not interested, because I’ve seen it already.