Casino (Movie Review)


After the healthy returns of Goodfellas pushed Universal Pictures to sign off on a spiritual sequel, Scorsese settled on Casino as a way to tell the story of mobster-turned-casino owner Frank Rosenthal. The movie reunited De Niro with his co-star from Raging Bull and added Sharon Stone, then making her film debut in Basic Instinct, to the cast, giving the production a major boost.

The result is a tense and taut thriller that remains riveting from beginning to end. At nearly three hours, it is one of the longest movies Scorsese has ever made, but Casino never lags or runs out of steam. A masterful use of sound, lighting, and physical design helps the movie keep a steady pace while evoking the glitzy, pulsating world of casinos that draws people in with its champagne glasses clinking and gambling enthusiasts trying their luck at roulette, poker, blackjack, and slots that pay out according to random chance.

Something about the environment of casinos seems to encourage cheating and stealing. It could be that the odds are stacked in favor of the house, or that it’s easy to lose track of time when surrounded by flashing lights and games of chance. There’s also the fact that casinos are designed to make you spend as much money as possible, even if it means going into debt.

In the end, though, it’s all just math. The house always wins, and no amount of charm or charmed characters can change that fundamental truth.