Film, Thrillers
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)

Martin Scorsese's thunderous gangland epic returns to the big screen

Sure, it’s a rush – but is that enough? ‘Goodfellas’ is often heralded as Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, and there’s no ignoring the full-throttle intensity and bravura visual style that underpin the real-life tale of small-time gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as he rises and falls through the ranks of the New York mob. It’s a film of perfect moments: Henry’s ‘As long as I can remember’ voiceover at the start; a breathtaking tracking shot through the back rooms of a nightclub; Joe Pesci’s unforgettable ‘How the fuck am I funny?’ routine.

But it’s hard to shake the feeling that, rather like its characters, ‘Goodfellas’ lacks heart. This is a story of awful creeps and the women who love them, so it was never going to be a festival of feelgood. But the sinuous coldness of the camerawork, the viciousness of the violence and the depth of the degradation all make it easy to admire, but hard to really love. In ‘Mean Streets’ and even ‘Taxi Driver’, Scorsese made his loser heroes relatable. In ‘Goodfellas’, they’re just a bunch of well-dressed dirty rats.

Release details

Release date:
Friday January 20 2017
145 mins

Cast and crew

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi
Ray Liotta
Lorraine Bracco
Chuck Low
Robert De Niro
Gina Mastrogiacomo
Paul Sorvino
Samuel L Jackson
Frank Sivero
Joe Pesci
Frank Vincent

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

One of my unofficial new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to cross off some of the classic movies I have somehow managed to get to the ripe old age of ** without seeing and so it was that I ventured to the House of Vans cinema underneath Waterloo last week to get down with some very bad ‘Goodfellas’.

The first few moments of any film are pivotal; they set the tone for the next few hours of your life and dictate whether it’s going to fly by in the blink of an eye or drag like a late afternoon re-run of Crossroads. From the opening credits of this celluloid classic from 1990, I was in love. In love with the look, the sound, the actors, the story, the costumes…basically every single reel and frame of beautifully edited, gorgeously dressed and superbly dramatized storytelling.

Thanks to long time Scorsese collaborator & film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, the pace is quick and the script is tight which helps 150 minutes pass by without a hint of watch stalking. You will absolutely find yourself effortlessly drawn in as three decades play out in bloody, violent & epic yet often darkly humourous fashion. I spent the first half of the film yearning to be a part of this twisted and deranged rendition of family and the second half with my hands over my eyes as everything descended into an uneasy & unpredictable maelstrom of misguided chaos.

The thing is, you can’t help but care. When Ray Liotta’s teenage dreamer is smacked around by his dad for daring to dream his way out of small town living, you care. When career defining Joe Pesci eats dinner with his mother while casually pocketing a butcher’s knife with which to re-introduce himself to a sworn enemy later, you care. When Paul Sorvino is betrayed by those he holds closest and closes his sad liquid eyes in pain, you care. And Bob? Bob de Niro? Every time I see a film like this, it goes some way to erasing the despondency I feel when looking at his recent CV but it doesn’t make me any more forgiving that someone this talented should choose to squander it so woefully. His performance seduces you instantly – at his best, he is charming and you want to be his friend. At his worst, he is loyal to no-one, malevolent and unforgiving. He is by turn mesmerising and terrifying.

In a high five to strong female characters – albeit sadly abused and intoxicated for much of the film - I also wanted to be Lorraine Bracco’s gorgeous & fierce Karen Hill, a woman who gave the movie heart in every scene she was in.

It seems odd to review a film that turns 26 years old this year but that’s the beauty of cinema; the bad films can be forgotten and the good films? Well they last forever, marking out and defining the moments that we want to remember and that we can’t forget. I know this is a film I will return to time and again, and each time I do, I’ll be sat under those arches at Waterloo, feeling the rumble of trains overhead and hearing the swagger of New York spring blood-spattered, spitting and swaggering off the screen. 

Great gangster movie, almost in the same class as The Godfather. Great acting from everyone, Joe Pesci perhaps doing the most stand out performance.