Tag Archives: Ray Liotta

Narc (2002) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Graphic Violence, Drug Use & Offensive Language
Cast:
Jason Patric as Nick Tellis
Ray Liotta as Henry Oak
Chi McBride as Captain Cheevers
Stacey Farber as Young Kathryn
Alan van Sprang as Michael Calvess
John Ortiz as Octavio Ruiz
Busta Rhymes as Darnell ‘Big D Love’ Beery
Director: Joe Carnahan

Tells the dark story of suspended undercover narcotics officer, Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), who is reluctantly drawn back onto the force to find the truth behind the murder of a young police officer killed in the line of duty. He is teamed with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the slain officer’s partner, a rogue cop who will stop at nothing to avenge his friend’s death. As Tellis and Oak unravel the case, the dark underbelly of the narcotics world reveals itself in surprising ways.

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I heard a little bit about Narc before going in. All I really knew about it was that it was a crime movie starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta and directed by Joe Carnahan, who also directed Smokin’ Aces and The Grey, both of them being movies that I liked. Narc is also a pretty underrated movie that not a lot of people have seen or know about. It’s not great but if you really like crime dramas and thrillers, I’d say that it is well worth a watch.

Narc is not that long, at around an hour and 40 minutes long but it makes the most of that runtime. This is a familiar cop drama and doesn’t really do anything really new, especially with the pair up with two completely different cops. Nonetheless for what it is, it’s pretty good, and the story is pretty intriguing, and it ties together nicely towards the end. It’s a very bleak and gritty crime thriller and goes all in on that, and I liked it for that. The twists were well handled, you can’t necessarily predict which way the story is going in. Even when I had some vague idea where it might go, certain parts were different from what I expected it to be, especially the ending. I guess if I had some problems outside of the familiarity of the story, the subplots don’t work quite as well, which is mainly Jason Patric’s family life with his wife and baby. It’s a pretty typical thing for a cop drama to focus on, but it feels rather underdeveloped and we only have a few scenes of it to see, so we don’t really care about that aspect as much as I think the movie wanted us to. Though it wasn’t bad, and most of the story was handled well.

There isn’t a huge cast involved, but the acting all around was great. Jason Patric is basically the lead character in the story, an undercover cop returning from suspension after a fatal mistake that he made during a previous case. I haven’t seen Patric in a lot, but he played his role very well. It’s Ray Liotta here who particularly stands out, giving one of his best performances as a really hardened and rough cop. Liotta gives him a lot of depth and elevates the character even further. The two actors are the driving force of the movie, and while the whole younger and more straight laced cop paired with the rough and aggressive veteran cop is something that has been done many times before, Patric and Liotta’s dynamic make it really work. The supporting actors were good as well, from Patric’s wife played by Krista Bridges and even Busta Rhymes was really good.

Joe Carnahan’s direction was quite good, even though I’d say that this isn’t his best movie. At times it feels like Carnahan went a little too much regarding the editing, really stylistic at random points with split screens, montages and the like. But the really rough and messy portrayal of everything fitted the tone of the movie rather well.

Narc is a movie that hasn’t really been noticed by most people and is worth a watch, an overlooked little gem. The story isn’t really anything that special and the movie on the whole is rather familiar, but the performances from Patric and Liotta, as well as Joe Carnahan’s direction, do make it well worth watching.

Marriage Story (2019) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Nicole Barber
Adam Driver as Charlie Barber
Laura Dern as Nora Fanshaw
Alan Alda as Bert Spitz
Ray Liotta as Jay Marotta
Azhy Robertson as Henry Barber
Julie Hagerty as Sandra
Merritt Wever as Cassie
Director: Noah Baumbach

A stage director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson) struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.

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I have heard of Marriage Story for a while, and there was much anticipation leading up to its release. I liked the few movies I’ve seen from writer/director Noah Baumbach, and the cast included Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, so there was a lot of talent involved. However, I didn’t really know what to expect except that it was a movie about divorce and a lot of people were hyping it up. Marriage Story is definitely great and for sure worth seeing when you can.

The script by Noah Baumbach is greatly written, at 2 hours 15 minutes or so, Marriage Story is rather engaging. It’s a slower paced dialogue driven drama, I had an idea it would be that going in, and I liked it for what it is. So much of it feels real, from the dialogue to the story and some of the characters (even if it does throw in a few large monologues too). It doesn’t really side with either of the main characters Charlie (Adam Driver) or Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), it portrays both of them honestly, each with their own flaws. However I will say that it feels more like Charlie’s movie than Nicole’s, so Driver had a little more to work with. Side note but wondering about “whose fault it is” between the two is very counterproductive, and is not really a conversation worth having. I don’t know too much about the divorce process, but the movie at least felt like an accurate depiction of it. It showed glimpses of the process, as well as the effect it has on the two leads as well as their child. I should mention that yes, Marriage Story very much has replaced Kramer vs Kramer as the best movie about divorce. I heard going into this movie that it was emotionally devastating and all that. Excluding whether you can relate to it (whether first hand or second hand experience with relationships/divorce), it’s not really that sort of movie. It is a dramedy, while it can be sad in parts, it’s not a consistently depressing or heavy movie or anything, it’s really bittersweet at worst. There are some lighter parts, and plenty of genuinely humorous moments too. Ultimately it’s a hopeful movie, including the way that it ended (not spoiling anything). Not to mention that as far as divorces go, there have been a lot more unpleasant divorces in both fiction and reality than the one front and centre throughout Marriage Story. None of what I said is a tangent to flex about how I didn’t cry during the movie or anything, I’m just talking about what kind of movie it is. I will say though on that note, I wasn’t that emotionally connected to the story and characters. I was definitely invested in it as a movie but that was sort of it.

There is a great lineup of a cast, and they all do some great work here. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give their best performances of their careers, as well as some of the best performances of the year. They felt incredibly raw and human, and while you don’t see a lot of them being together before the divorce (this is just shown in a brief montage), they have such great chemistry and you can believe that these two people were once in love. I’ve noticed people reposting and praising an argument scene between the two (there are a number of arguments but you’ll know which one I’m referring to), watching a couple minutes of it out of context doesn’t do it justice at all. The way it builds up to it and the context really gives it its impact, and both actors did very good jobs in that scene and the whole movie. The lawyers played by Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta also work well in their respective roles. Azhy Robertson is also good as Henry, the child of Charlie and Nicole, who’s caught in the middle of the divorce.

Noah Baumbach directed the movie well, particularly with the dialogue scenes. An example was a monologue by Scarlett Johansson in her first scene with Laura Dern, it’s uninterrupted and focuses on Johansson, letting the scene play out and allowing her performance to take up the focus. It’s a much more intimate and personal movie, and the direction certainly accompanies that, but it’s also edited very effectively. The score by Randy Newman was also quite good.

Marriage Story is really worth watching as soon as possible, it’s fantastically written, and features some excellent acting from its talented cast (particularly Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson). Whether you like Noah Baumbach or not, or if you have you seen his movies or not, check it out on Netflix if it’s not in a cinema near you.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sex scenes.
Cast
Mickey Rourke as Marv
Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy
Eva Green as Ava Lord
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny
Rosario Dawson as Gail
Bruce Willis as John Hartigan
Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
Dennis Haysbert as Manute
Ray Liotta as Joey
Stacy Keach as Alarich Wallenquist
Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy
Christopher Lloyd as Kroenig
Jamie Chung as Miho
Jeremy Piven as Bob
Christopher Meloni as Mort
Juno Temple as Sally
Director: Robert Rodriguez

The damaged denizens of Sin City return for another round of stories from the mind of Frank Miller. In “Just Another Saturday Night,” Marv (Mickey Rourke) struggles to recall a nasty run-in with some frat boys. In “A Dame to Kill For,” Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) forsakes his battle with his inner demons to help Ava Lord (Eva Green), the woman of his dreams and nightmares. In “Nancy’s Last Dance,” Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), mad with grief and rage over Hartigan’s death, vows revenge.

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I am a big fan of the original Sin City, with its comic booky style and direction. For a while there was talks of a Sin City sequel and it was a little worrying as it took 9 years for it to actually get made, which didn’t look good at all. A Dame to Kill For finally dropped in 2014, to some mixed reception, seemingly disappointing even some of the fans of the original. Despite the mixed reception surrounding the sequel I really liked it. A lot of what made the original to be great is here, from its direction, talented actors and more. It’s not as great as the original, most of it being due to the stories not being quite as great or interesting, but it is still a very solid movie overall.

Like in the first Sin City, the sequel has multiple stories and also like with the original, the stories aren’t necessarily presented in chronological order, if you’ve watched the original Sin City you will be used to it. The stories follow Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Nancy (Jessica Chastain), along with a brief storyline for Marv (Mickey Rourke). I overall liked all of the stories but they aren’t as interesting as the original. Out of all the main stories, only Dwight’s story is from a prewritten novel (that being A Dame to Kill For). The Nancy storyline is a continuation from her story from the original, the Johnny storyline is completely new and Marv is here because he’s a fan favourite (although he does make enjoyable appearances in the other stories as well). It’s unfortunate that the weakest storyline is the titular Dame to Kill For storyline, which does receive the most attention. It has its moments and is good enough but I’m not quite sure if I’d call it great enough. Overall though, this movie is quite similar to the original, and I had a great time with it.

Many of the original cast returns, with Mickey Rourke as Marv, Jessica Alba as Nancy, Rosario Dawson as Gail and others. They are all great, with Mickey Rourke’s Marv effortlessly being a standout. A surprising part of the movie is Jessica Alba, she was fine in the first movie as Nancy but here she actually is really good here, as Nancy since the first film has been going through a lot, and it was great seeing the change that she goes through. Powers Boothe was also a stand out here, he was in the original film for like one scene, but here he is a lot more prominent and has such a villous screen presence. Along with returning actors, there are also some talented new actors who are involved. Clive Owen was Dwight in the first Sin City but in this movie Josh Brolin is in his role and he does a very great job. Joseph Gordon Levvitt plays a brand new character named Johnny and he definitely owned his role, perfect casting. Eva Green plays Ava, the ‘Dame to Kill For’. Eva really was the perfect actress for the role. There’s not much complexity in terms of the actual character and is pretty much just a Femme Fatale, but then again the character in the original graphic novel is like that, so I can’t really blame her. All the actors do a good job, even the one scene actors like Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd make a solid impression.

A Dame to Kill For, like for the first Sin City has a unique style and it returns here, Robert Rodriguez directs this film well. The action is beautiful, violent, brutal and entertaining. The colour pallet is similar to the first movie’s, mostly black and white with some objects coloured (like red blood and a blue dress). As I said in my review of the first movie, it is the most accurate adaptation of a graphic novel, it’s whether you’re a fan of that style or not. And yes, like the first film it is gratuitously violent, and the action overall is just as entertaining. I will say that there is occasionally some really fake looking CGI (which didn’t really happen much in the original) but that doesn’t happen too often and doesn’t distract too much from the overall movie.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a solid follow up to the original Sin City, if not being quite on the same level. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a Sin City movie with its characters, style and structure. Aside from it feeling maybe a little too much like the original and a couple technical aspects, the main thing holding it back from being as good as the original is that the stories aren’t as strong. If you liked the first Sin City I recommend at least giving the sequel a go. If you didn’t like the first Sin City don’t even bother, nothing here is going to change your mind.

Hannibal (2001) Review

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic Violence
Cast:
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling
Gary Oldman as Mason Verger
Ray Liotta as Paul Krendler
Frankie Faison as Barney Matthews
Giancarlo Giannini as Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi
Director: Ridley Scott

Seven years have passed since Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) escaped from custody. The doctor is now at large in Europe. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) remembers Lecter too, and is obsessed with revenge. Verger was Dr. Lecter’s sixth victim, and though horribly disfigured, has survived. Verger realizes that to draw the doctor into the open, he must use someone as bait: Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore).

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On paper, Hannibal looked like it would be something fantastic. Everything looked great, it’s a sequel to the iconic Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lecter, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and many other talented actors are involved and Ridley Scott is directing. It’s a shame really, since despite all that this movie didn’t turn out all that great. It’s not bad and it does have a lot of good elements to it but it could’ve and should’ve been a lot better.

I haven’t read Thomas Harris’s novel Hannibal, so I don’t know how much they changed from the original source material aside from them removing one character and changing the ending. All I can comment on is what is in this movie, and I have to say that sadly, the story and writing for Hannibal was rather underwhelming and messy. The scenes with Clarice and Hannibal’s perspectives each feel like they are in completely different movies, and felt out of place whenever the film changes locations. I found the plot to move a little slow, it wasn’t boring but at times it was close to being that. It wasn’t as captivating as some of the other Hannibal movies. Another issue I had was the way they decided to portray Hannibal. I’ll get into detail later about what I mean, but to sum it up, he’s no longer unique, he becomes a typical over the top serial killer. Sure, we get more focus on Hannibal as a main character instead of being a supporting player, but he’s ironically less compelling in this movie despite that. As mentioned earlier, the movie does change the ending from the book, some will like it, others won’t. As someone who doesn’t like the direction that the book ending took, I liked the movie ending more, the book ending wouldn’t have worked at all for the movie with the way they decided to depict certain aspects (no spoilers).

Jodie Foster unfortunately didn’t return for this movie (for whatever reason) so Julianne Moore instead plays Clarice Starling and she does a really good job in her place. I get the feeling that her part wasn’t written as well as it should’ve (Clarice really doesn’t get to do anything until later in the movie) but Moore definitely added a lot to the role. The most stand out performance to me however was Gary Oldman as Mason Verger, who once again is incredible in another unrecognisable role. The makeup on him really was great and enhanced his performance. He’s completely covered in this makeup and looks nothing like himself but the way he acts and speaks made his performance really work. Giancarlo Giannini is also good in his role. Ray Liotta is a great actor but he was just annoying when he was on screen, I wouldn’t blame him though, his character really was the problem and he just acted what was given to him.

Now there’s one major performance that I’ve held off talking about, and that is Anthony Hopkins as the titual character. Hopkins was great in Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon but here… he wasn’t that great. While he felt unique in both of those films, he was incredibly hammy in this movie, going quite over the top and seeming more like a parody of Hannibal than actually Hannibal Lecter. It is often hard to take him seriously at points. The relationship between Clarice and Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs worked well but here it’s typical laughable serial killer obsession kind of stuff, it’s almost sexual and is just sort of weird rather than being captivating. It’s sad that Hannibal ironically is one of the biggest flaws in Hannibal. Not to say that Hopkins/Hannibal don’t have any good moments in the movie, but most of the time he wasn’t that great.

The direction by Ridley Scott is really good and one of the highlights of the movie. Something consistent throughout all of the Hannibal movies, no matter how good or bad they are, is that they all look beautiful. Hannibal is no exception, this film looks really good especially when the film is Italy. If there’s an aspect of the direction which wasn’t handled that well it was the violence. It’s not necessarily the level of violence (as the Hannibal show has even more violent moments but yet have executed those sequences excellently) but it’s how it’s presented. A good example is a scene involving a brain in the last act. It was so cartoonishly violent that I just found it funny rather than terrifying and horrific. A lot of the moments of violence just feel rather forced and over the top, though to be fair, I can’t blame Scott for the way these scenes turned out here. The scenes that they are adapting from the book aren’t easy to portray on screen without going too over the top and violent or too tame. Even Jonathan Demme (director of Silence of the Lambs) decided not to return to direct this movie because he found the Hannibal novel too violent and unadaptable. So I give Ridley credit for at least trying. It is nevertheless something that really stands out as an issue with the movie. The music by Hans Zimmer is great as usual, and works very well in the movie. This movie’s atmosphere is also great, and the soundtrack played a part in that as well.

Overall the movie is a mixed bag. The story itself was a bit messy and unfocused and it wasn’t as interesting, and it goes way too over the top at times. Even Anthony Hopkins was hammy and unfortunately rather silly, difficult to take seriously. Despite all that, the movie still has some really good stuff. The acting from most of the actors (Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and Giancarlo Giannini) is great, the direction from Ridley Scott is solid, so this movie is not without some high quality aspects. Hannibal is an okay film overall. If you liked the other Hannibal movies I recommend at least giving it a look, but don’t expect anything on the level of Silence of the Lambs or Red Dragon.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Tale (2007) Review

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In the Name of the King 1; A Dungeon Siege Tale

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Jason Statham as Farmer
Leelee Sobieski as Muriella
John Rhys-Davies as Merick
Ron Perlman as Norick
Claire Forlani as Solana
Kristanna Loken as Elora
Matthew Lillard as Duke Fallow
Ray Liotta as Gallian
Burt Reynolds as King Konreid
Brian White as Commander Tarish
Mike Dopud as General Backler
Will Sanderson as Basstian
Tania Saulnier as Talwyn
Gabrielle Rose as Delinda
Terence Kelly as Trumaine
Colin Ford as Zeph
Director: Uwe Boll

A farmer (Jason Statham) sets out to rescue his kidnapped wife (Claire Forlani) and avenge the death of his son — two acts committed by the Krugs, a race of animal-warriors who are controlled by the evil Gallian (Ray Liotta).

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I wasn’t expecting anything when I was going into this movie, Uwe Boll’s first two Bloodrayne movies caused me to have this feeling. For an Uwe Boll movie though, it isn’t as bad as Bloodrayne 2; the movie does have at times decent action scenes. However this movie still wasn’t good on its own, it still has a bad story, average to terrible acting along with having a lot of things from Lord of the Rings which did bother me from time to time.

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The story doesn’t have anything interesting to offer, made worse with the movie being 2 hours long, it should’ve been shorter. The first act was set up poorly with characters that I didn’t feel attached to, not helping this is the dialogue which is poorly written, uninteresting and doesn’t further develop the characters. This may be an aside but Statham’s character is literally called Farmer. The most boring part of the movie was the second act, there wasn’t much going on. The third act was the most entertaining and had a whole lot of action scenes which were done okay but they didn’t have much story to link them together to make them interesting. The film has many plot holes, like in one of the final fights with Jason Statham and Ray Liotta, Liotta doesn’t use his magic at the beginning, despite being able to get rid of him in an instant. This movie also took a lot of things from Lord of the Rings, for example the last big battle scene was very similar to the Helms Deep scene from The Two Towers. Even the Krugs seemed very much like the Orcs. The writer of this movie actually rewrote 80% of the script because it felt too much like Lord of the Rings, it’s not just me finding it familiar.

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This film has a good cast, none of whom brings much to the movie. Jason Statham doesn’t make much of an impression here, he’s much better in other movies but I will say that he does well in the action scenes, as he usually does. Ron Perlman gives the best performance in the movie, he’s one of those actors who can bring anything to a movie but unfortunately his character still wasn’t given any depth or attention. Burt Reynolds is for some reason in this movie but he just didn’t bring anything to the movie; he looks like he doesn’t want to be there and is quite underwhelming and boring. On the complete other end from acting bored is Ray Liotta who plays the villain and is completely over the top. If you’ve seen the two Bloodrayne movies, you know that Uwe Boll doesn’t know how to direct actors in playing villains. A prime example is when Liotta shares a scene with Matthew Lillard, it’s like they are competing in a ‘worst performance’ competition.

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The action scenes in the first act of the movie are done poorly, the camera shook and cut often and they aren’t filmed well. Later on the action scenes improved, the camera didn’t cut and it was steady, however they weren’t very interesting or entertaining, they were just okay.

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I will say that this movie is better than some of Uwe Boll’s other movies but this is still a bad movie. It has the many things that Uwe Boll movies have, bad acting, poor writing, average cinematography and has many plot holes, on top of feeling too much like Lord of the Rings. In short, the movie is a poor man’s Lord of the Rings, it’s the best way to describe it. I heard that Uwe Boll made a good movie, Rampage, I would really like to see it sometime; I need to take a break from his movies.

Goodfellas (1990)

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Goodfellas

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway
Joe Pesci as Tommy Devito
Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill
Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero
Director: Martin Scorsese

This film views the mob lives of three pivotal figures in the 1960’s and 70’s New York. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a local boy turned gangster in a neighbourhood full of the roughest and toughest. Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci) is a pure bred gangster, who turns out to be Henry’s best friend. Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) puts the two of them together, and runs some of the biggest hijacks and burglaries the town has ever seen. As he makes his way from strapping young petty criminal, to big-time thief, to middle-aged cocaine addict and dealer, the film explores in detail the rules and traditions of organized crime.

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Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces; from beginning to end, Goodfellas is compelling as it displays Henry Hill’s 3 decades in the life of the mob. Entertaining, interesting and fascinating, Goodfellas is a classic that draws the audience into watching the lives that these people lived.

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The narration in Goodfellas adds a lot to the movie, some movies use it as a gimmick but this is not the case here; we can almost understand Henry with these narrations. With the narrations that he gives throughout, it really feels like you are following Henry on his adventure as a gangster. The film is often compared with The Godfather but they have some differences, one being that this film doesn’t have many likable characters; despite the lifestyles that these gangsters lived, the film doesn’t condone them. Also while The Godfather seems to be about a dysfunctional family who happen to be in crime, Goodfellas presents the gangster characters more realistically and more raw. Despite there being brutal violence here, Martin Scorsese doesn’t glorify it; he puts it on screen and shows it in its’ true form. The differences between the two films are why I like Goodfellas more than The Godfather; the more realistic look on the characters made me more interested in the movie.

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Ray Liotta is really good in this movie; because he narrates throughout the movie, you really feel like you know him as you hear the details of how the mob works. The film mostly is around him and Liotta masterfully embodies Henry as we follow this man through his life as a gangster. Robert De Niro also brings a presence to this movie; Jimmy is someone who has been in the mob a while and you can really get that from De Niro’s performance. Stealing the show however is Joe Pesci, representing a hot tempered person who manages to be funny and intimating at the same time.

Tommy Devito

This film is very stylistic, especially with the narration; sometimes the camera freezes and Hill explains something happening or maybe the background of a certain person. The cinematography is also excellent and fits in with the style; an example is the tracking shot from the outside to the inside of a club. (This is now often called the Copacabana shot). The shot lasted for around 3 minutes and is a very good example of the great cinematography that the film has. The soundtrack picked is excellent, especially the piano part of Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla, which is played over a montage. A lot of the style in this movie is used in a lot of great movies like Boogie Nights and American Hustle.

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Goodfellas is so many things; it compelling, engaging, interesting and results in it being one of the best movies of all time, one of the best gangster movies and is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. Even though I prefer Casino over Goodfellas, this movie is still undeniably a film for the ages. It’s one that you shouldn’t miss and you should see as soon as possible if you haven’t already.