“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” The opening line from Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in Martin Scorsese’s classic gangster film Goodfellas sets the mood for this dark, violent look at the power that the Mafia exerted in America from the late ’50s onwards. Hill (played by Christopher Serrone as a teenager) lives in the poor part of Brooklyn and soon realises the only way to wealth is through the Mob, headed by local overlord Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino).
As he works his way up and the years pass, he becomes involved with Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), marrying Karen (Lorraine Bracco) along the way. But as the years, the deals, the murders and the robberies roll by, he realises that although he’s one of the goodfellas, he’ll never be a made man because he isn’t pure Italian. As his ‘career’ spirals into drugs, violence and whores, so Hill realises that both the FBI and his partners are closing in. There’s only one way to save his life…
In spite of the violence of the film, it was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Director. But the only award went to Pesci, whose character is the most violent and psychotic in the film, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Along with Casino, also directed by Scorsese, and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America , Goodfellas is a classic film casting an honest eye on America’s love affair with the Mob, with not one false note from the cast, a superbly ironic soundtrack and memorable lines in every scene.
USA / 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi, based on Pileggi’s book Wiseguy
Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero