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Movie Review of Casino

Casino, directed by Martin Scorsese, is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book of the same name. This movie takes us back to the 1970s when Las Vegas casinos were run by a group of mobsters.

This story is centered on the life of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (played by Joe Pesci).

Ace has found a great deal of success in running the Tangiers Hotel and Casino with the help of his partner, Nicky, who brings him more bad publicity than anything else. His wife Ginger, a money hungry former hustler only aids in his ultimate destruction.

This movie is packed full of action and violence and it gives you a clear picture of what Las Vegas used to be like back in the day.

Characters grow and crumble before your eyes and you find yourself feeling sorry for an incredibly wealthy mobster and his tainted relationships.

For more information about this movie and to see the rating we give it, please feel free to continue reading.

About the Movie

  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Genre: American Drama
  • Length: 2 hours, 58 minutes
  • Producer: Barbara De Fina
  • Script Writers: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese
  • Release Year: 1995

The Cast

Main Actors/ Actresses

Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein

Robert De Niro is an accomplished actor with a long list of achievements. As far as movies go, he’s probably most famous for his role in Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Meet the Parents.

He has won several awards for his phenomenal acting skills including two Oscars (1975, 1981), a MTV Movie Award for Best Line in a Movie (2001), and a Britannia Award for Excellence in Film (2009). More recently, De Niro has been working on a plethora of different movies including Hands of Stone, The Intern, and Dirty Grandpa.

Joe Pesci as Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro

Joe Pesci has certainly earned a name for himself in Hollywood for his array of award winning performances. He’s especially praised for his roles in Home Alone, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and of course Casino.

Pesci won the LAFCA award for Best Supporting Actor (1990), an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (1991), and an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (1993). Currently he’s working on the children’s film, Savva, Heart of the Warrior, where he plays the voice of Komar.

Sharon Stone as Ginger Mckenna

Sharon stone is a gorgeous actress with incredible talent. She’s well-known for her role in Casino, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and many more.

She won a MTV movie award for Best Female Performance (1993), a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (1995), and an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (1997). Currently she’s working on the movie Mother’s Day, which should be released towards the middle of 2016.

Supporting Actors/ Actresses

  • Frank Vincent as Frankie Marino
  • James Wood as Lester Diamond
  • Melissa Prophet as Jennifer Santoro
  • Alan King as Andy Stone

Brief Bio on Nicholas Pileggi (Author)

Nicholas Pileggi was born in New York City in 1933. In his mid twenties, he started working as a criminal journalist for Associated Press, specializing in mob related crimes.

Since his articles were so popular, many of them were written into Academy Award-winning screenplays including Wiseguy (1986), Goodfellas (1990), and of course Casino (1995). He has gotten several awards for his work including a Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and a BAFTA Awards for Best Screenplay in 1991.

Brief Bio on Martin Scorsese (Director)

Martin Scorsese was born in New York City in 1942 to Italian immigrants, so naturally he resided in the neighborhood of Little Italy. Scorsese was very well educated, having earned a both a bachelors and a masters in film communication from the New York University’s School of Film.

Since then, Scorsese has directed and produced a plethora of award winning films including The Color of Money (1986), Goodfellas (1990), Gangs of New York (2002), and Shutter Island (2010) to name a few.

What It Is Rated and Why

This movie is rated R for a plethora of reasons including an excessive amount of profanity.

Nicky Santoro, in particular, hardly has a sentence come out of his mouth that doesn’t contain a swear word or two. In addition to that, there are many scenes full of violence where you see people badly beaten and seeping with blood.

Sex and nudity is also prevalent throughout the film where viewers are exposed to women’s body parts and where sexual activity is implied. Last but certainly not least, viewers will see a great deal of alcohol and drug abuse throughout the film.

Ginger is a cocaine addict and there’s several times where you’ll see her snort it up her nose.

This movie is very vivid and realistic as to what went on in Las Vegas during this time and therefore this film isn’t recommended for anyone under the age of seventeen.

Character Analysis

Sam “Ace” Rothstein

Ace is a lovable criminal if there ever was such a thing. Even though he’s clearly working for the wrong people, has no problem killing people off, and is so incredibly arrogant at times, you somehow still want to see him succeed.

Ace is a good person who has gotten himself into situations he can’t control and as viewers, we truly want to see him overcome his obstacles.

You see a glimmer of hope for Ace when he falls in love with Ginger and starts a family with her, but their relationship quickly fizzles, turning Ace into a control freak.

Nicky Santoro

Nicky is certainly the antagonist of the film, having no boundaries when it comes to getting what he wants. He murders hundreds of people, most of which he didn’t have a good reason to do so.

He’s untrustworthy, un-loyal, and an overall horrible person. His only soft spot is his son, Little Nicky, who he goes out of his way to have breakfast with in the mornings, no matter what his activities were the night before.

Ginger

Ginger is a stunningly beautiful prostitute with a great love of money and an even bigger attachment to her pimp, Lester. As the movie goes on, you see the true Ginger emerge and it’s certainly not a pleasant site to see.

Ginger is a drug addict and her shear dependence on Lester leads her down a slippery slope that she’ll never be able to recover from.

Summary of the Movie

The Beginning

At the opening scene of this movie, a car will explode in front of your eyes and you’ll get to see Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) flying in the air. You’ll then be taken back in time to the events leading up to his death.

The first half of the film is mostly narration by Ace himself, Nicky Santoro (played by Joe Pesci), and other main characters who will explain the mobster’s hand in the Las Vegas Casinos.

The characters in this movie are based on real-life mobsters.

The character or Sam Rothstein represents Frank Rosenthal, the character of Nicky Santoro is based on the life of Anthony Spitotro, the character of Ginger McKenna is derived from the infamous Geri McGee, and the character of Frankie Marino is based on Italian Mobster Frank Cullotta.

This adds an element of authenticity to the film, as the lives of these characters were truly inspired by the real-life mobsters who used to run the street of Las Vegas.

You’ll get to see how generously the casino gives away their money to politicians and other wealthy men in hopes that they’ll stay at the casino long enough to spend all of their money.

You’ll also get a better idea of the extreme violence that took place during that time as a result of the mafia and how quietly and quickly murders were executed. The suit case full of money that’s passed around at the start of the film helps you get a better understand of how well executed their system was in the beginning and why it seemingly failed.

A couple of problems arise early on in the film, which seem minor at first but increasingly get worse and worse.

The first issue we run into is Ace’s relationship with Ginger, as they never seem to be on the same page.

Ace wants to get married and start a family but Ginger doesn’t want to give up her lifestyle and all the freedoms she gets from it, plus she still has some unresolved feelings for her old pimp, Lester.

Her fear of marriage and commitment isn’t as powerful as her love of money though. She agrees to marry Ace since he promises to always buy her everything that she wants and tells her that she can leave if she ever becomes unhappy.

Not only is that an unsettling start to a marriage, but the end result of their marriage is much worse. Luckily, or so it seems, Ginger’s lover Lester passes away, making it easier for their relationship to grow. They start a family, having one daughter named Amy who they both love deeply.

A second problem that emerges early on is that Ace doesn’t have a license to run a casino and yet he technically owns the Tangiers Casino.

He gets away with this by taking on different positions within the company that allow him to oversee everything without claiming the title as owner. The State Regulators are picking up on his schemes though and it soon becomes obvious that in order to continue with business as usual, Ace will have to obtain a license.

The Climax

Ace wants to show Ginger that he truly trust her, so he gives her complete control of one of his accounts that has $2 million dollars in it that’s designed to be used in case of an emergency. Ginger feels honored that Ace trusts her with that much money and their relationship is strengthened because of it.

In the meantime, Nicky is practically going on a murder spree, killing anyone that he sees fit. He’s soon barred from every casino in Las Vegas and was considered by many to be the new boss in town. This causes a lot of problems for Ace, as everyone knew that they were close.

Ginger requests $25,000 from Ace but refuses to tell him why she needs so much cash. He refuses to give it to her, causing her to take it out of the $2 million account.

This is when we find out that Lester is still alive and that Ginger needed the money for him and that she clearly still had feelings for him. When Ace finds out, he sends Nicky and his friends to beat Lester which devastates Ginger. When she gets home she heads back to her old ways of alcoholism and drug addiction.

On top of that, the FBI were really started to get on Nicky’s trail and it became very difficult for him and Ace to meet privately.

Nicky plans to take over Las Vegas and it looks as if no one is going to stop him.

Ace doesn’t agree with everything Nicky is doing but he’s too worried about his gaming license trial that’s coming up that he doesn’t do anything about it either.

The day for Ace to get his gaming license is finally here and even after making a beautiful case for himself, Ace ultimately gets denied a license. In anger, Ace starts the show “Ace’s High” to show the judges that even if they deny him a gaming license, they certainly can’t take him out of the casinos.

He even files a law suit against the Supreme Court but never ends up getting very far with that. Ace also has another lawsuit on his hands, as he and Ginger have finally decided that it was in their best interests to get a divorce.

The End Result

Ginger meets secretly with Nicky; they plan to get as much money out of Ace as possible and then they sleep together. From this point on everything that could go wrong in Ace’s life certainly does.

Photos are released of Nicky and Ginger together, so everyone knows about the affair. Ace comes home to see Amy tied to her bed, claiming that Ginger did this to her. Ginger takes the entire two million emergency fund from Ace and they never see each other again.

The FBI finally have enough evidence to arrest every mobster associated with the Las Vegas Casinos and one by one you see Ace and Nicky’s accomplices heading to jail. Nicky didn’t get caught by the FBI but the Mafia did deal with him; they killed his brother right in front of him and then buried him alive.

We find out that Ginger spent all her money on drugs, eventually leading to her death by overdose. At the end of the story, we see Ace living in a mansion in San Diego and running a sports betting business.

He heads to his luxury sports car and we are taken back to the opening scene when Ace’s car explodes in to a million pieces, costing him his life.

Favorite Quotes

Sam (Ace) Rothstein said this at the very beginning of the movie,

“When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point? And for a while, I believed, that’s the kind of love I had.”

This is there very first lines of the movie and it captivates your attention from the beginning, because as soon as Rothstein speaks this words, a bomb blows up his car and he dies.

The movie then goes back in time to all of the events that take place leading up to the first scene. This line certainly foreshadows Rothstein’s relationship with Ginger, who you’ll meet just a few scenes later.

Sam (Ace) Rothstein also said this,

“In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all.”

We particularly enjoyed this quote because it’s still applicable to how casinos operate today.

Even though the major casino on the Las Vegas Strip are no longer ruled by Mobsters, they still give many of the same incentives to keep high rollers playing at their casinos in hopes that they’ll lose all of their money.

Nicky Santoro once said this,

“That black book’s a joke. It’s only got two names in it for the whole country. And one of them’s still Al Capone.”

This quote refers to Nevada’s Blackbook which is a compiled list of all persons who have been banned from ever setting foot in a casino again.

This is the state’s attempt to keep organized crime out of the casinos, which is ironic because the main characters of this movie are all organized criminals that will later be placed in the Blackbook.

What Others Are Saying

IMBd gives Casino an 8.2 out of 10 rating! One of the more interesting reviews on the website read,

“A complex, multilayered, beautifully directed film, Martin Scorsese’s Casino is a masterpiece of destruction and betrayal. Few films take so many chances and succeed so wonderfully and it’s fascinating to watch these people run Las Vegas, control the flow of money, and then fall from the heights of power due to lust, hubris, and greed.”

Rotten Tomatoes gives Casino an 80% and has this to say about the film,

“Five years after his masterful chronicle of the inner workings of the Mafia on the East Coast, co-writer/director Martin Scorsese delivered this ambitious, grandiose, and epic look at the history of the Mafia in Las Vegas, and how greed, vanity, and bad luck brought it all down.”

The New York Times released this review in November of 2015,

“Of all the bravura visual effects in Martin Scorsese’s dazzlingly stylish “Casino,” it’s a glimpse of ordinary people that deliver the greatest jolt. Strategically timed to offset three hours’ worth of vintage Las Vegas glitter, it’s a reminder that Mr. Scorsese has given this film’s setting the surreal and breathtaking intensity of a money-mad mirage.”

Awards & Accolades

This film won the silver ribbon for Best Production Design from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. This film brought a lot of light to its director and cast including Martin Scorsese (Director), Sharon Stone (for her role as Ginger), and Joe Pesci (for his role as Nicky Santaro).

Martin Scorsese was nominated for a Golden Globe in Best Director and for Best Foreign Director from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists thanks to this film.

This was Sharon Stone’s breakout movie, having won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role and third place in Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards for Best Actress, along with several nominations.

Joe Pesci was nominated for Best Villain Award at the MTV Movie and the Awards Circuit Community Awards nominated Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, and Kevin Pollak for the Best Cast Ensemble Award.

Our Rating and Why We Recommend It

4 Out of 5 Stars
4 Star Rating

We give this film 4 out of 5 stars! The casting was excellent for this film; Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone were the perfect fit for their characters and there were many talented supporting actors as well.

The characters were well developed throughout the film and it’s easy to see the character’s growth and change as the film goes on. Even though most of the characters are horrible mobsters, viewers will find themselves relating to their struggles and understanding their actions.

We also appreciate the ambiance the film creates, as viewers truly had a grasp on what casinos were like in the 1970s and the behind the scenes work of the mafia portrayed in the movie was also a very accurate representation of what really happened during that time.

The storyline was also very interesting. We always appreciate a movie where we can’t guess what’s going to happen next and this is certainly one of those movies.

There were a few aspects to the movie which cause it to get a lower rating.

For example, we aren’t very fond of the excessive amount of narration in the first hour of the film. We understand that some dialog was necessary for us to fully grasp the background of this particular mob group, but there seemed to be more narration than actual dialog.

We also don’t appreciate the mass amounts of foul language that’s spoken throughout the film, even though some of it was also probably necessary.