Martin Scorsese directs Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in this gangster drama spanning the life of one true life mafia wiseguy.
The sheer breathless verve and fetishisation of criminal consumerism shoves us forcefully through this fascinating life story. Pushing you along so fast and so hard that three hours feels like 90 minutes. Endless rewatches spoil you with new details. Ray Liotta’s take on Henry Hill, as he goes from neighbourhood kid parking goombahs Caddys to desperate snitch, is a tapestry of criminality evolving. Scorsese thumps us through the years through keen soundtrack choices (revolutionary at the time) and a keener eye for fashion. Interestingly, real world news events are pointedly never ever even glimpsed, these criminals are in their own world untouched by JFK, moon landings or ‘Nam. Forrest Gump this ain’t. You live their life, not the history books ‘prescribed’ significant events of the period. In the first half we are inveigled into the world of the mob. We are swept to the front table of the club by the steadicam wizardry, we are let in on the codes, nicknames and shared humour of the killers, we are Lorraine Bracco (brilliant here) being handed a bloody pistol and stuffing it into our knickers. Then the DVD disc flips (too much movie for one side alone) and we get coked up, sweaty and paranoid darting around town trying to get the score settled. Scorsese sells us the life then kills it right there in front of us, a prepossessing Liotta manages to make us care even when it becomes clear he is just as corrupt and as immoral as the more open psychos he introduced us to. The scene where Jimmy Conway beckons Karen Hill into a dark warehouse side door bristles with threat. It is one of cinema’s most terrifying moments. Movie perfection, all in, all out.