Casino (Movie Review)

Following the healthy return on investment of Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese and Universal reassembled their team for this gangster epic. Based on a non-fiction book written by Nicholas Pileggi and co-starring De Niro and Joe Pesci, Casino was well-positioned to capitalize on the growing trend for violent crime dramas, and it did.

The movie’s main draw is its star pairing, but Casino has a terrific supporting cast too. James Woods is a comic lowlife con-man, and Vinny Vella delivers a memorable turn as long-suffering casino manager Artie Piscano. It’s Sharon Stone, though, who steals the show as sultry blonde hustler Ginger McKenna. The actress’s performance both builds on and inverts her star-making turn from Basic Instinct. Her ability to hold and guide the camera’s gaze, at once seducing and controlling her men, is astounding.

Casino’s plot has massive implications for Vegas. It explains how the mob lost control of a city that once minted money by the billions and how gambling corporations took over. It’s also a reminder that gambling isn’t just about winning, but about losing as well.

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