Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1990s Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990)

With this epic, Martin Scorsese returned to the world of tough-talking Italian-American hoods featured in Mean Streets (1973), following 30 years in the lives of a group of neighbourhood crooks.

From hanging around the taxi rank, punk kid Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) progresses to hijacking, airport robberies, extortion, grievous bodily harm, drug dealing and, finally, informing.

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Along the way he gets a Jewish wife (Lorraine Bracco) who, unlike the Corleone women, finds it impossible to keep out of the wholesale sleaze that goes along with her husband’s way of life.

More important, of course, are Henry’s close male relationships: with Jimmy (Robert De Niro), a coolly violent heist man, and Tommy (Joe Pesci), an unstable psychopath with hopes of getting “made”.

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In the end, Hill is turned by the FBI and informs on his few surviving friends, winding up condemned to a Federal Witness Protection limbo where “if you ask for Spaghetti Bolognese they give you noodles with meatballs”.

goodfellas_57Drawn from co-writer Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction book Wiseguy, this is more matter-of-fact in its insider chattiness than the mythmaking The Godfather (1972).

Indeed, Goodfellas is almost a companion piece to the comical Married To The Mob (1988) as it observes the manners and fashions of the organised crime world.

Underlaid by a constant barrage of cunningly selected pop singles, from Tony Bennett to Phil Spector to Sid Vicious, this panorama of illegal America stays with a group of wholly repulsive, increasingly corrupt people for nearly two-and-a-half hours but never loses its fascination.

goodfellas28De Niro, underplaying in a secondary role, is quietly chilling as the repressed but unpredictable robber who sometimes seems to think he’ll only be safe once he has killed everyone he knows.

However, the show-off monster is Pesci, who plays the maniacal Tommy as a homicidal Lou Costello, segueing instantly from foul-mouthed rat-tat-tat wisecrack routines into mortifying threats or slap-in-the-face atrocities.

Without moralising, the film manages to convey the dead-end horrors of a life not just outside the law but outside all possible law.

Henry Hill
Ray Liotta
Tommy DeVito
Joe Pesci
Karen Hill
Lorraine Bracco
James Conway
Robert De Niro
Paul Cicero
Paul Sorvino
Frankie Carbone
Frank Sivero
Sonny Bunz
Tony Darrow
Frenchy
Mike Starr
Billy Batts
Frank Vincent
Morris Kessler
Chuck Low
Tommy’s mother
Catherine Scorsese
Tuddy Cicero
Frank DiLeo
Janice Rossi
Gina Mastrogiacomo
Vinnie
Charles Scorsese
Karen’s mother
Suzanne Shepherd
Sandy
Debi Mazar
Stacks
Samuel L Jackson
Spider
Michael Imperioli
Henny Youngman
Henny Youngman

Director
Martin Scorsese