Bullets to the face. Knives in the gut. Being frozen in a meat truck. This is a story that has come to be legendary in 20th-century cinema.
Marking its 25th anniversary, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas remains one of the greatest films depicting non-fictional American mafia. In this week’s Rewind, I felt it necessary to kick off the school year with a classic film, and one of my favourites.
Directed by Scorsese (Raging Bull, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street), Goodfellas stars Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams, The Rat Pack), Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, Meet the Parents), and Joe Pesci (Home Alone, My Cousin Vinny) as real life mobsters spanning “three decades of life in the mafia”, as the poster’s tagline describes.
Similar to The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese’s use of comedy counteracts the gore and drama. He does this to entertain his audiences while also showing them a piece of history.
Another Scorsese-esque element that makes his movie enjoyable is the use of protagonist voiceover, whereby the audience is invited into a conversation with the characters. Liotta’s character goes as far as breaking the fourth wall and speaking with the audience at the end of the movie to close the conversation and to cap the history spoken about throughout.
The film’s realism, cinematography, music choices, and improvisation are a few of the reasons for the film’s success. The movie focuses on the real in what seems to be an over-the-top story, fresh with killers eating a meal at their innocent mother’s house and the pros and cons of living in an up-and-coming family in the 1960s. It inspires everyone to strive for the best, but tells you to achieve your goals within reason, or you may have to pay severe consequences, such as jail or casualties.
Like other mob movies, it shows audiences the incredible rise to power, but reminds you in its final moments that, truly, the bigger you are, the harder you fall.