Review of Casino

Casino (1995)
10/10
A Can't-Miss Story No Matter How Told
16 August 2005
As a lifelong gambler who has crossed paths with a few fringe types portrayed in the film, I'm well aware of the story, the culture, and the ambiance of the Tangiers, the fictional casino placed in the control of Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert Deniro). Rothstein is not a mob member, but a "moneymaker" for them because he's the nation's best sports handicapper. It was refreshing for a movie to finally show that not all gamblers are stupid, but instead one of those who takes advantage of the many who are.

Rothstein's partner in crime is Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who is far less convincing as a mobster than he would seem to like to believe. Sharon Stone plays the psychotic Ginger, a once-in-a-lifetime role in that it was the only time in my life I could bear to watch her on film. The supporting cast is strong, led by James Woods and Don Rickles (excellent in his dramatic capacity), and the movie is generally well-acted.

If you are a gambler or know the "wiseguy" culture, the movie doesn't have to be explained, while if you aren't, you'll feel like you've stumbled upon the secret meeting place of the mafia and made privy to what is said, without anyone knowing you were there. This film is based on the true story of what happened when the mob tried to put its men in suits and have them heading a casino, and why it has never been tried since. The homage paid to the incestuous nature of Nevada politics was an excellent touch.

Most of us wouldn't like a guy like Sam Rothstein, nor would we like to be him, but if we go to Vegas for a weekend and stay at a casino/hotel, we'll have a better experience if his watchful eye is ensuring that our stay is a pleasant one. The film's nod to how Vegas has been sanitized since those days is also accurate, and reflects sadness at a lost era, where the baby (the "old school" types who made Vegas great) was thrown out with the bathwater (the organized crime influences).
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