Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus

Henry Hill might be a small time gangster, who may have taken part in a robbery with Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, two other gangsters who might have set their sights a bit higher. His two partners could kill off everyone else involved in the robbery, and slowly start to think about climbing up through the hierarchy of the Mob. Henry, however, might be badly affected by his partners’ success, but will he consider stooping low enough to bring about the downfall of Jimmy and Tommy?

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Simply a masterpiece. Scorsese’s last truly great movie (to date).

17 March 2003 | by Infofreak (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

‘Goodfellas’ is a masterpiece, pure and simple. While not my favourite Martin Scorsese movie it is a stunning achievement, and one of his very best movies. The film is stunning technically. The consistently fine acting by the large ensemble cast (both known and unknown), the cinematography, editing, dialogue, brilliant use of music, it’s all breathtaking. But Scorsese and co-writer Mitch Pileggi never lose lose sight of their main goal – to tell a story.

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And in that it’s really hard to beat this movie. As to the actors De Niro is on top form, Ray Liotta is the best he’s ever been, and this is Joe Pesci’s definitive performance. Plus you have Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Michael Imperioli, and lots of well known faces in small but important roles (Debi Mazar, Samuel L. Jackson, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Corrigan), plus dozens of unfamiliar actors (and non-actors) who are all so good it seems unfair just to single out the “stars”. (Also keep an eye out for Vincent Gallo in a few scenes. He has no lines, but looks cool!).

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‘Goodfellas’ is (to date) Scorsese’s last Great Movie, and one of the very best films of the 1990s. Absolutely essential viewing for any movie fan, this tremendous film is not to be missed! Highly recommended!

The greatest mob film still today

10/10
Author: OriginalMovieBuff21 from United States
11 April 2005

Amazing is the one and only word to say for this film. I have always thought that Goodfellas was one of the greatest films ever made and set a landmark in the 90’s or even in movie history. I bought Goodfellas last week and I got to watch the film a couple days ago. I really just couldn’t lay my eyes off the film and everything about it was just simply worth watching. The acting was excellent, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and other actors did great and almost all of the characters they portrayed were 100% accurate. The camera-work also was brilliant and Martin Scorsese does a beautiful job by putting excellent camera shots in his films and I give him high credit for that.

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The soundtrack too is one of the best soundtracks ever made and the song “Layla,” put chills down my spine of how great this song fitted the film. Overall, Martin Scorsese made his best film in my opinion and him and Nicholas Pileggi made an excellent and sharp script that made this, the greatest mob film still today.

Hedeen’s Outlook: 10/10!! **** A+

The Definitive Film of the 1990s

Author: tfrizzell from United States
21 July 2000

“GoodFellas” may be the most important film of the 1990s in the fact that its incredible success led to some of the other great movies of the decade. Films like “The Silence of the Lambs”, “The Crying Game”, “Pulp Fiction”, “The Usual Suspects”, “Fargo”, and “L.A. Confidential” would have likely never been made as well as they were without the influence of Scorsese’s “GoodFellas”. The film is an intense study of a Mafia family over a 30-year stretch. Ray Liotta plays the half-Irish, half-Sicilian kid from Brooklyn whose only dream is to be a gangster. Although Liotta’s story is at the heart of “GoodFellas”, it is the supporting cast that is the film’s calling card.

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Robert DeNiro gives one of his greatest performances, Paul Sorvino is quietly effective, and Lorraine Bracco (in an Oscar-nominated role) does the best work of her career. However, it is Joe Pesci (in his well-deserved Oscar-winning turn) who steals every scene as the one who does the “dirty work”. This is probably the definitive film in a decade that produced many film-noir styled classics. 5 stars out of 5.

Scorsese’s best

10/10
Author: Dan Grant (dan.grant@bell.ca) from Toronto, Ontario
16 September 1999
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Goodfellas makes you feel like you are watching guys that you know or knew. To this day, I have a friend that still talks like Jimmy Two Times. He always says things like “Nice Nice” and that was just a background piece in Goodfellas. But that is the point, all that is background is just as important as the main players and locales. It all paints us a perfect picture of what mob life must be like. And with all due kudos to The Godfather, but there is no other film that has ever made mob life look so real and feel so tangible the way Goodfellas does.

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To say that Joe Pesci is the best part of this film would be to discredit the rest of the cast, but at the same time, you have to mention him in some way. His portrayal of Tommy is haunting. Here is a man that is so insecure and wants to be the top dog, the made man so bad that he can’t decipher between what is a joke and what is disrespect towards him. Of course the scene in question is when he shoots a common boy for telling Paulie to screw himself after Paulie shot him in the leg. You would think the guy has a right to let off a little steam and vent, but Paulie is always looking for the diss. He is always looking to find some hidden gesture from someone that is putting him down. Even at the beginning when he is getting on Henri in the now famous ” You’re a funny guy ” scene. He is kidding with Henri but deep down inside he is angry with him, you can see it and feel it. Joe Pesci gave the performance of his career and he richly deserved to win best supporting actor that year.

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The story and script by Pileggi is sheer inside brilliance. You can feel the inside observations that no one can have except for a guy that spent his whole life on the inside. They ring so true and they get into your blood. From scenes like the fat guy running around delivering messages to the other mob guys because he doesn’t like to use the phone to the scene when Henri, Paulie and Tommy have Billy Bats in the trunk but they stop off at Tommy’s moms house for a late night dinner of pasta and such. They also have to borrow a sharp knife to finish off the guy in the trunk, but to his mom they have to cut off the hoof of a dear that hit the car. And the scene where Tommy does kill the young kid for joking with him and then Paulie gets mad at him, not for killing the guy but because he doesn’t want to dig a hole tonight.

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There are so many tiny observations in Goodfellas that give it the authenticity it has. And it is a film that stays with you for years to come. I think this is Scorcese’s best film and although I understand and accept why the academy awarded Dances With Wolves the accolades it did, if this film would have swept the Oscars that year, no one would have been surprised. It is a landmark film and I think it is one of the best films ever made. And again, taking no credit away from Coppolla’s Godfather epics, but this gets inside the mafia on a deeper level. It goes one step beyond what Coppolla gave us, and for that Goodfellas should be remembered as the best film about gangsters ever made.

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May I differ?

3/10
Author: FilmSnobby from San Diego
25 November 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Overrated in 1990, *Goodfellas* has grown even more overrated with the passage of 15 years. It’s based on the — I daresay — untrustworthy recollections of a half-Irish, half-Sicilian mobster-turned-informant who recently, I am reliably informed, appears as an addled, half-witted guest on “The Howard Stern Show”. The narrative arc, if one can accurately term it that, spans 30 years, roughly from 1950 to 1980.

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This, of course, gives Martin Scorsese every incentive to soak the background with dozens of pop-culture tunes ranging from Bobby Vinton to Derek and the Dominoes. His use of the last 3 lilting minutes of “Layla” as some sort of ironic counterpoint in the extended montage that reveals the corpses of a dozen gruesomely executed mobsters in various places across New York City only underscores his utterly conventional taste in music. One wonders whether Scorsese would’ve been happier as a Top 40 deejay instead of a filmmaker.

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His conventionality — a surprising development, given his success with such Seventies classics as *Mean Streets* and *Taxi Driver*, both infused with his uniquely individual aesthetic — extends beyond the soundtrack to the actual movie itself. Lovers of this movie will doubtless be distressed to learn that the various stylistic techniques Scorsese uses here — whip-pans, sudden freezes that supposedly add ironic punctuation to the narrative, even the use of pop music as commentary on a montage — all derive from French (yes, I said French) auteurs from the New Wave school of the Sixties and Seventies. These same lovers of this movie would probably also consider Orson Welles to be an overrated old fuddy-duddy, but that doesn’t stop Scorsese from pointlessly laying on at least two sequences of long tracking-shots through complicated spatial arrangements without cuts, the device Welles perfected if not wholly invented.

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(An even less impressive feat for Scorsese, who benefits from the technological advance of the Steadicam. Welles did it with old-fashioned cameras on dollies and hydraulic cranes.) I believe that all these borrowings betray Scorsese’s fundamental, perhaps unconscious, lack of confidence in the power of his story, here.

For the screenplay, let it be said at once, is poorly constructed. The narrative focuses on trivial events, like a gofer getting shot in the foot during a card game or Paul Sorvino slicing garlic to atomic thinness, and then presents the world-famous Lufthansa heist through hearsay. The movie’s main character, Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, hears a news report about the heist while in the shower. One may reasonably ask why we’re in the shower with Henry when we should be in the getaway car with Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway and his henchmen.

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This, of course, leads one to reasonably ask why we’re not watching a movie about Jimmy Conway instead of Henry Hill, the latter being, more often than not, on the periphery of the movie’s main events. Having Liotta narrate the exciting stuff for us in voice-over is no substitute. Indeed, the movie is cripplingly dependent on voice-over narration, perhaps because Mr. Hill’s own story, in and of itself, isn’t interesting enough to really warrant a honest-to-goodness movie in the first place. As the movie drones on with Liotta’s loquacious narrator ceaselessly filling in the narrative gaps, one suspiciously wonders — for example — why Hill and Conway are NOT whacked for bumping off “made man” Billy Bats, while Joe Pesci’s Tommy DOES get whacked.

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All three men were involved in the killing, yet only Tommy pays the price. Why? Does Conway’s and Hill’s Irishness serve as a magical force-field? — I don’t get it. Well, I did say at the beginning of this review that Hill was an untrustworthy storyteller. From the evidence, it appears that Hill was quite conversant with his mob boss’s cooking techniques (hence all the time wasted on cooking scenes and shots of gorgeously laid-out family feasts) and far less conversant with the important incidents that are the subject of this film. Note too how inconsistently handled Henry’s character is throughout the film: one moment he pistol-whips almost to death a sexual predator who messes with his girlfriend, the next he’s aghast when some punk kid gets carelessly killed. Hmm — smells like self-hagiography to me.

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After an overly-edited, chaotic, 30-minute final act in which a sweaty-faced, puffy-eyed Liotta drives around the suburbs, peering up through his windshield at police helicopters, dropping off hot guns, going to the grocery store, zipping back home to make meatballs (AGAIN with the cooking!), and so forth, he gets pinched for good. Under the umbrella of the Witness Protection program, he finally rats out his mob bosses . . . and it occurs to us that this should have been the focus of the film all along, i.e., the FBI’s successful eroding of the criminal code using Witness Protection. But Scorsese crams it in during the last five minutes of this 3-hour movie. A little less time in the kitchen and in the shower, and a little more time getting down to business, might have made this movie pretty great.

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As it is, the performers give *Goodfellas* undeniable energy, almost mitigating all its flaws. Fans of good New York actors will forgive this movie everything: Liotta, De Niro, Pesci, Sorvino, and Lorraine Bracco do THEIR job, at least. And perhaps this is why the movie is so well-loved. Colorful characters limned by great performances are entertaining. But, in my judgment, the virtues of verisimilitude can’t overcome what amounts to a 3-hour-long non-story.

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A Masterpiece That Gets Better With Each New Viewing

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
7 March 2008

Goodfellas (1990)

**** (out of 4)

Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece about Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a man who grew up hoping to be in the mob and he got his but crime does not pay as the old saying goes. GOODFELLAS has been called one of the greatest mob movies ever made and it’s been called the best film of the 90s as well as one of the greatest films ever made.

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It certainly goes on my list as one of the greatest movies ever made and each time I view the thing I can’t help but be amazed at the brilliance on screen. It’s really does seem as if this isn’t a movie because the thing is so perfect in every way that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s real. Even though everything in this movie is great there’s no doubt that every ounce of credit belongs to Scorsese.

There have been wonderful crime pictures going all the way back to the silent days so the director was behind the eight ball but instead of just delivering a great movie he instead goes all out and really creates a film unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

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The way he films the violence, shows the good times and the bad times. Everything is so flawless that you really do forget that you’re watching a movie because it comes off like you’re a fly on the wall witnessing all of this stuff first hand. There’s the now legendary camera shot going through the restaurant, there’s the terrific music score and of course the violence that really shakes you. One could argue that we’ve seen this type of story countless times but it’s so fresh here that you can’t help but feel as if you’re seeing it for the first time.

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There are so many brilliant moments here but special credit has to go to the final twenty-minutes or so when Hill finally starts to crack due to all the drugs. The fast-paced nature of this sequence is among the most perfect filming you’re ever going to see because by the time it’s over you’re going to think that you too are high on drugs. Another amazing thing that Scorsese does is get you into the events in these people’s lives. The good times early on are so much fun that you can see why someone would select to be in the lifestyle. The camera doesn’t shy away from capturing these moments including the high times in the nightclubs with the women and the money. However, Scorsese also nails the downside when everything starts to crumble and the violence is so shocking and brutal that you then realize that this lifestyle only ends one way and you’re thankful that you’re not involved in it.

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Another major plus are of course the performances. Liotta is perfect in the role of Hill and especially when you consider he must carry the film over the more famous actors. I thought Liotta perfectly nailed not only the young, energetic Hill but he really pulled off the drug-crazed maniac. DeNiro, as usual, is also terrific in his part as he brings so much fire and energy to the character and can cause you to fear him with just a look. Joe Pesci deserves his Best Supporting Actor Oscar as there’s no doubt that he delivers one of the finest villain roles in the history of film. Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino are also impressive as are the rest of the supporting players even down to the bit parts.

GOODFELLAS is without question one of the greatest films ever made and like all classics it’s a movie that keeps getting better each passing year. Scorsese has made many great films in his career and this here is certainly among his best.

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Quite terrible

3/10
Author: John Brooks from France
31 March 2016

You read around and you see “Joe Pesci’s best performance”, “Masterpiece”, “Scorsese at his best”, “Classic mobster movie”, “cinematographic perfection”… seriously these people are just mad. This is literally as follows: this guy shoots this guy, that guy shoots that guy, then this guy shoots this guy, for no reason, then this guy shoots that guy…I swear it just goes on and on. There’s absolutely nothing that isn’t linear, flat and dull about this film, it’s just event after event, nothing subtle, ever, nothing about the state of mind of the characters, human condition, interesting dialog, nothing nothing nothing. De Niro is okay but widely anonymous. Liotta overplays a bit. Pesci’s character is embarrassing (I know it’s a biography, but still).

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It’s interesting really because it shows all people want is mafia violence, they just like to watch the event of homicide, doesn’t matter how/where/who/when… It’s looooooooooooong. It never ends. And it’s so incredibly irrelevant. I tried to see the good about it. Nahh….nah this is just garbage.

And of course Scorsese picks the easy way out choosing to make this: just pick a mobster’s real life story, put 3 renowned actors, write a dull screenplay, and film it. Everybody will love it: it’s got De Niro, violence, mafia atmosphere, and the name Scorsese. This is just disgustingly bad taste.

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Classic modern day gangster film

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
30 January 2002

Starting with the 1950’s, we follow Henry Hill from a teen who tries to realise his dream of `always wanting to be a gangster’. He goes from running errands for Paulie Cicero to become a trusted man within his organisation. Working with James Conway and Tommy De Vito, Henry navigates his violent lifestyle where death is never more than a few steps away.

For my generation this was one of our first introductions to Scorsese doing a real tour-de-force of a film – I was too young to appreciate Raging Bull and his 70’s work when it first came out and the eighties were a quiet period (except the brilliant king of comedy). So here was a great introduction to a fanatastic director. The plot is spread over such a long time (in terms of story years) that it’s hard to get beneath the surface events, but this is a very minor problem given that it’s such a great ride.

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The focus is on events and the culture rather than a deep story and as such Scorsese works with set pieces and events rather than too much characterisation. However the story moves so effectively through the action – Scorsese uses long tracking shots, pumping soundtracks and scenes of building tension and sudden violence to create a masterful experience.

The weakness with lack of depth is really put to the back of your mind by the action, the direction and the performances. The story is well held together by Hill’s narrative and the shallowness is easily over looked. Liotta is excellent as the aspiring gangster and is full of self seeking menace. De Niro does what he does best in terms of the Irish gangster role but the standout is Pesci. Pesci gives a strong role as the vicious Tommy and deserved his Oscar. The rest of the cast are all excellent whether it’s major roles (Paul Sorvino, Lorraine Bracco) or minor characters (Frank Vincent, Sivero).

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The real star here is Scorsese – he uses the camera and the soundtrack to great effect and gets great performances from his cast. A modern gangster feast.

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