Goodfellas (1990)

Lock up the pasta sauce and hide your cannolis, because Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas takes us on a wild ride through the life of a New York mafia foot soldier. This 1990 masterpiece based on real events remains one of the greatest gangster films ever made. Let’s dish on what makes Goodfellas such a towering achievement in cinema.

Right from the electrifying opening tracking shot, a palpable energy courses through Goodfellas. Scorsese’s kinetic camerawork makes you feel part of this dangerous world. The propulsive classic rock soundtrack keeps up the pace, punctuated by the mobsters’ crude humor and swagger. Within minutes, you’re utterly sucked into their lives.

Of course, Scorsese assembles an all-star cast firing on all cylinders. Ray Liotta has never been better as Henry Hill, our flawed protagonist who gets seduced by the riches and power of mafia life from a young age. Robert De Niro deserves applause for making Jimmy Conway so charming yet chilling as a ruthless criminal mastermind. And Joe Pesci deservedly won an Oscar for playing hot-tempered Tommy, who can switch from laughing to violence in a heartbeat. Watching these characters form a crew engaged in increasingly dangerous crimes proves hypnotic.

The supporting players shouldn’t be overlooked either. Lorraine Bracco shines bright as Henry’s volatile wife Karen, struggling to accept his criminal dealings. Paul Sorvino nails it as an intimidating mob boss who dotes on Henry like a son. And keeping it in the family, Scorsese’s own mother Catherine plays Tommy’s mom – adding authentic Italian charm. This ensemble immerses us utterly in mob life.

Beyond the explosive performances, Goodfellas impresses technically too. Thelively period costumes and props nail the gritty 70s era. Michael Ballhaus’ tracking shots create visceral motion. And Thelma Schoonmaker’s polished editing earned a richly deserved Oscar, cutting rapidly during chaotic moments without ever losing focus. Their craftsmanship is superb.

I can’t dig deep into plot points here without spoiling anything! But suffice to say, this intimate saga takes us through the exhilarating highs and gut-wrenching lows of the mafia underworld. Over decades, we watch Henry’s moral compass warp until violence and scams seem commonplace. It builds and builds to a chilling climax that stays with you for a long time after.

Some critics argue Goodfellas glamorizes criminals by making their lifestyles look so flashy and thrilling. I disagree – it pulls no punches showing them as sociopathic murderers beneath the slick suits and money. Only someone warped would want to join this crew after seeing their brutal lack of conscience. Scorsese meant it as a harsh reflection of reality.

And a quarter century later, Goodfellas remains the gold standard for mob films, yet to be equaled. Scorsese directs with a kinetic and confident flair few can match. It rockets the genre intensely into the modern era without sacrificing richness. This intimate bio-drama makes you feel like a member of their inner circle.

So cook up some pasta, queue up “Layla,” and savor the volatile flavor of Goodfellas. Let Scorsese give you a “mobster’s-eye view” of organized crime’s glittery spoils and savage consequences. It’s one of cinema’s greatest stories of friendship, greed and the American Dream gone awry. Our thing of ours.

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