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Laramie Movie Scope: Casino

A gory look into the mob in Vegas

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 29, 1996 -- One of the films being mentioned for possible Oscar nominations is ``Casino,'' Martin Scorcese's epic story of Mafia activity in Las Vegas.

While it may never be shown in Laramie, it will be coming out on video soon (as ``Kids'' is now). I saw it in Cheyenne at the discount movie theater downtown.

Sharon Stone received a Golden Globe award for her performance in the film as Ginger McKenna, a hooker and hustler who marries a mob-connected casino boss in the 1980s. James Woods plays Lester Diamond, a small-time hustler, pimp and loser. Oscar-winner Robert DeNiro plays Sam Rothstein, the casino boss. Joe Pesci plays Nicky Santoro, a crook and pscycopathic killer.

The plot, based on a true story, details the rise and fall of Rothstein in Vegas, and how the mob lost its hold in that town. The film is rich in detail about the gambling business. It shows how the suckers troop into town and why they always leave their money behind.

Rothstein is a guy who makes a science out of gambling. He is, in fact, smart enough to go legitimate. He manages to become a respectable businessman in Vegas, but is slowly pulled under by his pride, his destructive relationships with both McKenna and with Santoro. Rothstein enters a marriage with McKenna, knowing that she doesn't love him, but not knowing she's still in love with Diamond, a leech of a man who won't let her go.

The film is full of missed opportunities, of people using people ruthlessly, and of terrible violence. The film was so violent at times I looked away from the screen. In one scene Santoro puts a man's head in a vice to make him talk, and his eye pops out. In many ways, it is a brutal film.

Sharon Stone deserved her award for a great performance as the self-destructive McKenna. DeNiro and Pesci are both very effective in their roles. Scorsese does a good job keeping the film going, but it is overlong, at nearly 3 hours (175 minutes). It is a well-crafted, powerful film, but very depressing and certainly not for the squeamish.

I rate it a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)