GoodFellas is a gangster movie, based on the true story of real-life mobsters Henry Hill, James Burke and Thomas DeSimone.
It follows the rise and decline of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), an Irish-Italian American who wants to be a gangster and goes to work for local mob boss Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). Along with two friends, the more experienced Irish-American mobster Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and psychopathic killer Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), Henry commits various crimes and becomes very successful.
The movie is one of the best paced films I’ve seen, with pretty much no superfluous scenes (I suspect it may have been ruthlessly edited for this very purpose), although it nevertheless runs to well over two hours in length. It grabs your attention and doesn’t let go; once you start watching, you’re on board for the whole duration.
The soundtrack is particularly good, with memorable songs by a variety of artists including the Crystals, Muddy Waters, Aretha Franklin, Cream, and the Rolling Stones.
One downside of the film, to my mind, was the absence of any particularly likeable characters. Just about all the main characters are violent criminals; Conway is a cold blooded murderer, and DeVito is absolutely vicious, and arguably one of the scariest characters I’ve seen in film – all the more so because his personality and actions were closely based on those of a real person.
In terms of this film’s status as a gangster movie… well, there can be no question, really. It’s full of gangsters, it’s all about the gangster lifestyle, and terms like “made man” and “heist” are present and correct. And of course, the mise-en-scène includes suits, guns, knives, gloomy streets, fancy bars… it’s very much a gangster film.
So, is it my favourite film? Certainly not. But would I recommend watching it? Most definitely. This is a movie everybody ought to see. Well, providing you don’t mind the violence, which is often brutal. Oh, and the swearing – the characters swear all the time. Those naughty boys.
Next up: Reservoir Dogs. *Gulp*
Current listening: The Cat Empire, “Protons, Neutrons, Electrons”.