Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas delivers a cinematic ice-pick to the neck as it unravels a thumping ultra-violent, truly personal (and at times darkly hilarious) exposé of the mean streets walked by the New York Mafia through the eyes of "real life" mobster Henry Hill and his cohorts. There's no end of reasons why this Goodfellas exudes five stars. It gets better with every watch and resonates as powerfully today as it did 22 years ago when it blasted its way onto the big screen.
1. Martin Scorsese: Director.
The master director bombards our senses with a gritty and yet hypnotic vision of murderous villains who seems incredibly likeable, funny and almost someone you'd, well envy…that is from the outside. His choice of cast is flawless, the soundtrackis meticulously selected to reinforce and sometimes comfort the corresponding on screen action. The cinematography from Michael Ballhaus is warm, stylish, inviting and the Copa entrance "one shot" is quite simply amazing. And his ability to make you laugh in the middle of some extremely heinous activity is an example of perfect pacing. Scorsese is a craftsman and it has never been more evident than Goodfellas.
2. Joe Pesci: Tommy De Vito.
I often wonder if all Pesci's early baby photos are of him stabbing other toddlers with his rattle. Has there been a more engaging, comedic yet brutal on screen villain? Surprisingly Goodfellas' only Academy Award went to Pesci (not surprising he won, but it was the only award). He irresistibly draws you into his foul tempered, remorseless and vengeful world, all the while unloading a machine-gun into our funny-bone. Tommy's interaction with in his vernacular "Hen-dry" is mesmerising, the "how do I amuse you" scene hits it out the park, maybe this was the roll Pesci was born to play.
3. Ray Liotta: Henry Hill.
As the central character and co-narrator Liotta shines as the local kid, who as long as he could remember wanted to be a Wiseguy. Liotta lashes us with fits of rage, never more obvious when he beats Karen's neighbour senseless with the butt of his gun, he plays the mediator, if not always a successful one (see Jimmy thrashing Morris with the phone). Liotta is a fine actor, but this is his best work, you almost feel sorry for Henry…almost I said.
4. Robert De Niro: James "Jimmy" Conway.
No need to mention the fact this man commands the screen the way very few do, De Niro opens the top off Jimmy like a bottle of single malt Irish Whiskey, smooth, aged and with a hell of a kick! As the senior mentor to Henry and Tommy; Jimmy deals his wisdom with an iron fist. You want Jimmy on your side, but at what cost? As we see Jimmy age on screen his devious, cruel and single-minded desire to control cuts like a knife. De Niro creates a man who should be feared, respected and put away for life, even if he was often referred to as Gentleman Jim.
5. Lorraine Bracco: Karen Hill.
Long before she was trying to fix the mind of one mob boss, Bracco played the wife of Henry Hill and though she was brought into the "life" she took to it like a politician to bull-sh*t! As the co-narrator, Bracco lends her distinct voice to Karen as she enlightens us to her evolving relationship with Henry and her descent into drug addicted mob-wife; but ever remaining the rock that Henry clings to (when he's not cheating). Bracco displays a myriad of emotion, wide-eyed girl from the suburbs, devoted mother, scorned wife and cocaine addict lured by what the unfettered access to money has made her. In such as powerful cast, she is well at home.
Dave Grenfell - follow Dave on Twitter here: @nowshowinghigh