MOTW: "Goodfellas" Review


MOTW: "Goodfellas" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 146 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 19, 1990
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama

"Goodfellas" is a ruthless tale portraying the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his buddies Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). It's funny, exciting, nostalgic, and crude. The movie is full of classic scenes reeking with gangster charm and sick laughs. "Goodfellas" is the glorification and the subsequent demise of a gangster's life.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Henry learns to idolize the gangster life exemplified by the local Mafia crew. Not interested in school, Henry and his pal Tommy begin working for the mob on minor jobs. In the beginning, it's as simple as selling cartons of illegal cigarettes. Jimmy would supply them, while Henry and Tommy would get them into the hands of anybody interested in buying the illegal loot. During one of the transactions, two detectives arrest Henry, who remains silent and wins the respect of his new family. In this fast-paced film, it's not long before Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy are pulling jobs together and living the fast life. Drunk on the concept of being a mobster, Tommy becomes unhinged and kills a made man. Loyal to a fault, Henry and Jimmy help Tommy out and bury the body.

As time progresses, Henry marries Karen (Lorraine Bracco) and starts his own family. The mob lifestyle begins in earnest with displays of all-out garishness from one scene to the next. From the clothes they wear to the furniture in their homes, it appears everything they own fell off a truck. In the meantime, they still have scores to settle. During one such score, Henry and Jimmy try to knock some sense into a deadbeat who owes money, and they land in prison. Shunned by the mob and unable to support himself or his family by any other means, Henry starts up a drug business from behind bars.

Once Henry is out of prison, he continues selling drugs despite how the mob feels about mixing drugs with the family business. Henry's arrogance knows no bounds, though, and he recruits Jimmy, Tommy, and his family to keep the business going. Moreover, he decides to plan the heist of a lifetime and sets his sights on the cargo of a Lufthansa flight. After the heist, the plan is for everyone to keep up appearances and not spend any cash, but as gang members arrive at a party, Jimmy soon realizes each one of them has been living large. Not willing to take this lightly, the trio takes care of business.

In all the mayhem, Tommy is the one who goes outrageously overboard. His friends perceive him as a loose cannon, but, more importantly, so do the Mafia hierarchy. They know Tommy killed a made man. Unbeknownst to Henry and Jimmy, a ruse to make Tommy a made man will end his life. In a crazed ending, a cocaine-fueled Henry attempts a multitude of tasks to keep his business going. In the end, the FBI is after him, and he eventually rats out Jimmy and their boss, Paulie Sorvino, in order to save his own life.

From the movie's opening moments, Ray Liotta embodies Henry Hill, starting with the narration and continuing with each ensuing scene. Viewers believe in him; they like him and find themselves rooting for the gangster. The same goes for Robert De Niro. In this film, their characters are half-Irish. No possibility exists that they become made men, but they are elated to find out that Tommy will receive this honor and are crushed when they know the truth. The viewer can almost feel the camaraderie of these three men throughout the movie. Tying this group together is Joe Pesci in an over-the-top performance, which won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His recklessness, outrageousness, violence, and laughter are beyond compare. These three men are "Goodfellas" and exceptional actors. No one should miss the opportunity to see this movie. It's a cult classic.

"Goodfellas," directed by Martin Scorsese, received numerous Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Writing, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor. The only Oscar win, by Joe Pesci, was for Best Supporting Actor. However, "Goodfellas" won multiple nominations at the Golden Globes: Best Director, Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay. In addition, it claimed numerous nominations and won awards at the British Academy Film Awards, Venice Film Festival, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.

Nicholas Pileggi, who coauthored the screenplay of "Goodfellas" with Martin Scorsese, based the screenplay for the movie on his book Wiseguys.

Rating 4.5 out of 5