Casino (film)

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Casino
Casino poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Barbara De Fina
Screenplay by Nicholas Pileggi
Martin Scorsese
Based on Casino 
by Nicholas Pileggi
Starring
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
Studio
  • Syalis D.A.
  • Légende Entreprises
  • De Fina/Cappa
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 22, 1995 (1995-11-22)
Running time 178 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40-50 million[1]
Box office $116,112,375[2][3]

Casino is a 1995 American crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. The two previously collaborated on the 1990 hit film Goodfellas.

The film marks the eighth and (to date) final collaboration between director Scorsese and Robert De Niro, following Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990), and Cape Fear (1991).

De Niro stars as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a Jewish-American top gambling handicapper who is called by the Italian Mob to oversee the day-to-day operations at the fictional Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. His character is based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran the Stardust, Fremont and the Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the 1970s until the early 1980s.

Joe Pesci plays Nicky Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro. Nicky is sent to Vegas to make sure that money from the Tangiers is skimmed off the top and that the mobsters in Vegas are kept in line. Sharon Stone plays Ginger, Ace's wife, a role that earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Plot[edit]

In 1973, Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro), a sports handicapper and Mafia associate, is sent to Las Vegas to run the Teamsters-funded Tangiers Casino on behalf of several Midwest Mob families. Taking advantage of lax gaming laws allowing him to work at the casino while his gaming license is still pending, Ace becomes the Tangiers' de facto boss and doubles the casino's profits, which are skimmed by the Mob before the records are reported to income tax agencies. Impressed with Ace's work, the bosses send Ace's friend, enforcer and caporegime Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro (Pesci) along with his brother Dominick, his best friend Frankie Marino and their crew to protect Ace and the whole business. Nicky, however, begins to become more of a liability than an asset; his violent temper quickly gets him banned by the gaming board from every casino, and his name is placed in the Black Book. Nicky then gathers his own crew and begins running unsanctioned shakedowns and burglaries.

Ace, meanwhile, meets and falls in love with a hustler, Ginger McKenna (Stone). Despite Ginger's reluctance, they soon conceive a daughter, Amy, and marry. Their relationship begins to deteriorate when Ace and Nicky catch Ginger giving money to her former boyfriend, her pimp from her days as a prostitute, Lester Diamond, now a small-time con man. Ace also makes an enemy in Clark County Commissioner Pat Webb by firing Webb's brother-in-law Donald Ward for incompetence, and refusing to reinstate him. Webb retaliates by pulling Ace's casino license application from the backlog and forcing him to have a license hearing, while secretly arranging for the gaming board and State Senator Harrison Roberts to reject the license. Ace responds by appearing on television and openly accusing the city government of corruption. The bosses, unappreciative of Ace's publicity, ask him to return home, but he stubbornly blames Nicky's reckless lawbreaking for his own problems, which leads to a heated argument with Nicky in the desert.

The bosses appoint Kansas City underboss Artie Piscano to oversee the skim and reduce the amount local mobsters are keeping for themselves, but he keeps incriminating ledgers and is caught on an FBI bug discussing the skim. Ace loses patience with Ginger after she and Lester are in Los Angeles with plans to run away to Europe with Amy. Ace talks Ginger into bringing Amy back, but he accidentally overhears her talking on the telephone with someone about having him killed, and he evicts her from the house. She returns, on Ace's condition that she carry a beeper on her for him to contact her whenever he must. Ginger turns to Nicky for help in getting her share of her and Ace's money from the bank, and they begin an affair, something which is against mob rules and could get Ace, Nicky and Ginger killed. Ace reaches his limit with Ginger when she ties Amy to her bed to have a night with Nicky. Ace confronts Ginger in the restaurant, learns of her affair with Nicky and disowns her. She turns to Nicky, but Nicky refuses to have Ace killed and blames Ginger for her rash actions, claiming that Ace will likely not give her any money now. Ginger flies into a rage and attacks Nicky, but he throws her out. The next morning, Ginger goes to the Rothstein house, creates a disturbance, and uses the distraction to take the key to their bank deposit box. All of these events are occurring under FBI surveillance, having been alerted by Piscano's discussions heard by the bug. Ginger takes the cash from the safe deposit, and the FBI decides it's time to arrest her, hoping to use her as a witness against the mob's activity.

With Ginger's arrest and the FBI's discovery of Piscano's records, which are then matched with the skimming operation, the casino empire crumbles and the bosses are arrested. During a meeting, they decide to eliminate anyone involved in order to keep them from testifying, including teamster chief Andy Stone, the money courier, and several casino executives. Ginger, who ultimately told the FBI nothing, dies nearly penniless in Los Angeles of a drug overdose (a hot dose, as Ace learns via second autopsy). Ace, on the other hand, is almost killed in a botched car bombing, which he suspects Nicky planted. Before Ace can confront him, however, Nicky and Dominick are beaten severely and buried alive (in an infamously gory scene) in a cornfield by their own crew including Frankie. Ace narrates that the bosses had finally had enough of Nicky, and had ordered Nicky's crew to get rid of him in exchange for clemency for covering up Nicky's affair with Ginger.

With the Mob now out of power, the old casinos are purchased by big corporations and demolished to make way for gaudier gambling attractions financed by junk bonds. Ace laments that this new "family friendly" Las Vegas lacks the same kind of catering to the players as the older and, to his perception, classier Vegas he saw when he ran the Tangiers. In the final scene, an older Ace is shown living in San Diego, once again as a sports handicapper for the Mob, or in his words, "...right back where I started." Ace closes the film with the words, "And that's that."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The research for Casino began when screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi read a 1980 report from the Las Vegas Sun about a domestic argument between Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a casino figure and his wife, Geri McGee, a former topless dancer.[4] This gave him an idea to focus on a new book about the true story of mob infringement in Las Vegas during the 1970s, when filming of Goodfellas (the screenplay which he co-wrote with Scorsese) was coming to an end.[5] The fictional Tangiers resort reflected the story of the Stardust Resort and Casino, which had been bought by Argent Corporation in 1974 using loans from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. Argent was owned by Allen Glick, but the casino was believed to be controlled by various organized crime families from the Midwest. Over the next six years, Argent Corporation siphoned off between $7 and $15 million using rigged scales. When exposed by the FBI, this skimming operation was the largest ever exposed.[6] A number of organized crime figures were convicted as a result of the skimming.

Pileggi decided to contact Scorsese about taking the helm of the project, which would become known as Casino.[4] Scorsese expressed interest in the project, calling this an "idea of success, no limits".[7] Although Pileggi was keen to release the book and then concentrate on a film adaptation, Scorsese encouraged him to "reverse the order".[8]

Scorsese and Pileggi collaborated on the script for five months, towards the end of 1994.[5] Real-life characters such as Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Geri, Anthony Spilotro and his brother were reshaped. Some characters were combined, and parts of the story were set in Las Vegas instead of Chicago. A problem emerged when they were forced to refer to Chicago as "back home" and use the words "adapted from a true story" instead of "based on a true story".[7] They also decided to simplify the script, so that the character of Sam "Ace" Rothstein only worked at the Tangiers Casino, in order to show a glimpse of the trials involved in operating a Mafia-run casino hotel without overwhelming the audience.[7] According to Scorsese, the initial opening sequence was to feature the main character, Sam Rothstein, fighting with his estranged wife, Ginger, on the lawn of their house. Since the scene was too detailed, they changed the sequence to show the explosion of Sam's car and his flying into the air before hovering over the flames in slow motion—like a soul about to go straight down to hell.[7]

Principal photography[edit]

Filming took place at night in the Riviera casino in Las Vegas to replicate the fictional Tangiers with the nearby defunct Landmark Hotel as the entrance. According to the producer Barbara De Fina, there was no point in building a set if the cost was the same to use a real-life one.[7] The opening scene, with Sam's car exploding, was shot three times with the third used for the film.[7] When first submitted to the MPAA, the film received an NC-17 rating due to its depictions of violence. Several edits were made in order to reduce the rating to R.[9][10]

Reception[edit]

The film was a box-office success, making $116 million worldwide[2] on a $50 million budget.[1]

While the film was heavily criticized for its excessive violence, it garnered a mostly positive critical response. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 81% "fresh" rating, based on 57 reviews.[11] On Metacritic, the rating is 73 (generally favorable reviews) out of 100 based on 17 reviews.[12]

Sharon Stone was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Martin Scorsese was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director.

American Film Institute Lists

Soundtrack[edit]

Casino: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released November 20, 1995
Genre Soundtrack
Label MCA
Producer Robbie Robertson
Disc 1
  1. "Contempt – Theme De Camille" by Georges Delerue
  2. "Angelina/Zooma, Zooma Medley" by Louis Prima
  3. "Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters
  4. "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers
  5. "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
  6. "How High The Moon" by Les Paul & Mary Ford
  7. "Hurt" by Timi Yuro
  8. "Ain't Got No Home" by Clarence 'Frogman' Henry
  9. "Without You" by Nilsson
  10. "Love Is the Drug" by Roxy Music
  11. "I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee
  12. "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
  13. "The Thrill Is Gone" by B.B. King
  14. "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia
  15. "The 'In' Crowd" by Ramsey Lewis
  16. "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael
Disc 2
  1. "Walk on the Wild Side" by Jimmy Smith
  2. "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" by Otis Redding
  3. "I Ain't Superstitious" by Jeff Beck Group
  4. "The Glory of Love" by The Velvetones
  5. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by Devo
  6. "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" by Dinah Washington
  7. "Working in the Coal Mine" by Lee Dorsey
  8. "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
  9. "Those Were the Days" by Cream
  10. "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" by Tony Bennett
  11. "Slippin' and Slidin'" by Little Richard
  12. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" by Dean Martin
  13. "Compared to What" (Live) by Les McCann & Eddie Harris
  14. "Basin Street Blues/When It's Sleepy Time Down South" by Louis Prima
  15. "St. Matthew Passion (Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder)" by Johann Sebastian Bach (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Army Archerd (1995-11-13). "Scorsese puts faith in preview auds". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  2. ^ a b Scott Foundas Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm (2013-05-07). "Andrew Garfield to Star in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  3. ^ "Casino (1995)". Box Office Mojo. 1996-01-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  4. ^ a b Baxter, John De Niro: A Biography p.336.
  5. ^ a b Thompson, David and Christie, Ian Scorsese on Scorsese p.198.
  6. ^ Levitan, Corey (2008-03-02). "Top 10 scandals: gritty city". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Thompson, David and Christie, Ian Scorsese on Scorsese pp.200–204.
  8. ^ Baxter, John De Niro: A Biography p.337.
  9. ^ Bona, Damien Inside Oscar 2
  10. ^ Dretzka, Gary (November 9, 1995). "Casino Wins Appeal For R Film Rating". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Casino (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Casino reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  14. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
Bibliography
  • Thompson, David; Chrstie, Ian (1996). Scorsese on Scorsese. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22002-1. 
  • Evans, David (2006). De Niro: A Biography. 

External links[edit]