Hi everyone, Bryan here….
I’m sure there are going to be a ton of Martin Scorsese directed scenes in this column, but the first one is definitely from Casino, which had Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci come together for a third time to make a film again. With the huge success of Goodfellas, De Niro and Pesci basically play very similar characters to that film, but this one is set in Las Vegas in the Tangiers casino, which is a fake casino, but based off the real life people and Italian mafia they were all connected to. Casino is a fascinating film and one of the better gangster movies of all time.
There are so many scenes in here that are worthy of mentioning for various reasons. Casino showed the rise and fall of a Las Vegas Casino that was under mafia rule from the 70s and 80s. Their main guy was Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein, which was based on the real life Frank Rosenthal, who knew how to run a casino to make the most amount of money and not be taken advantage of by rival crews or cheats. The mafia back home sent Nicky Santoro, a made guy in the mob, based on the real life gangster Anthony Spilotro to make sure Ace was running things smoothly and that the bosses back home got their money every week from the casino. Of course, Nicky did more than just “oversee” things.
Scorsese has even said that Casino has no plot to the film. There are characters, actions, and information in the movie about the characters, but there is no plot to the film that got from point A to point B. This doesn’t make it any less great. In fact, this 178 minute long movie feels like only an hour with the great amount of conflicts and action that happens in the film. Casino is one of those films that I can watch 52 times a year, every year. Maybe even more.
So what scene do I have picked out here? I could go with that famous scene inside the casino where we meet Sharon Stone’s character Ginger, where she throws the chips in the air with an overhead shot in slow-motion, or I can mention that brutal scene where Ace catches to the two cheaters at the poker tables, where someone’s eye pops out over a guy named Charlie M. It’s not any of those, although, they may show up later down the road. This scene comes towards the end of the film where the once-best friends Ace and Nicky (De Niro and Pesci) have a big falling out in the middle of the desert. Ace explains how pissed off Nicky is and instead of having a meeting in town, Nicky wants to meet out in the desert, which Ace gives himself a 50-50 shot of surviving the meet-up.
Right of the bat, things are super tense where Nicky starts yelling at Ace for talking bad about Nicky behind his back, which Nicky has killed for much less. The dialogue is funny-as-hell, yet at the same time – absolutely terrifying as Nicky threatens Ace several times. It’s been said that Scorsese allowed De Niro and Pesci to improv most of their scenes together where they talk with one another. If that’s indeed the case here, this is some of the best improv I’ve ever seen.
ACE (V.O.) Normally, my prospects of comin' back alive from a meeting with Nicky were ninety-nine out of a hundred. But this time, when I heard him say, 'A couple a hundred yards down the road', I gave myself fifty-fifty. EXT. DESERT - DAY ACE still standing in the desert. NICKY's car suddenly appears as a reflection in ACE's sunglasses, shaking ACE out of his desert-induced reverie. NICKY's car pulls up by ACE. He gets out and storms up to him. NICKY Where the fuck you get off talkin' to people about me behind my back? Goin' over my head? ACE What people? NICKY What people! What'd you think, I wasn't gonna find out? ACE I don't even know what you're talkin' about, Nick. NICKY No? You said I'm bringin' heat on you?! I gotta listen to people because of your fuckin' shit?! You're ordering me out?! You better get your own fuckin' army, pal! ACE I didn't do anything. I mean, I didn't order you or anybody... I only told Andy Stone that you had a lot of heat on you, and that was a problem. NICKY You want me to get out of my own fuckin' town?! ACE Yeah, I said I - let the bullshit blow over for a while so I can run the casino. Anything goes wrong with the casino, it's my ass. It's not yours, it's my ass. NICKY Oh, I don't know whether you know this or not, but you only have your fuckin' casino because I made that possible! ACE I - NICKY (Interrupting) I'm what counts out here! Not your fuckin' country clubs or your fuckin' TV shows! And what the fuck are you doin' on TV anyhow?! ACE What are you - NICKY (Interrupting) You know I get calls from back home every fuckin' day?! They think you went batshit! ACE I'm only on TV because I gotta be able to hang around the casino. You understand that. You know that. Come on. NICKY Your fuckin' ass! You could have had the food and beverage job without goin' on television! You wanted to go on TV. ACE Yeah, I did want to go on TV. That way I have a forum. I can fight back. I'm known. People see me. They know they can't fuck around with me like they could if I was an unknown. That's right. NICKY You're makin' a big fuckin' spectacle of yourself. ACE Me?! I wouldn't even be in this situation if it wasn't for you. You brought down so much fuckin' heat on me. I mean, every time I meet somebody here, the big question is do I know you. NICKY Oh, sure. Now you want to blame your fuckin' license on me, is that it? ACE No, it - it - Nicky, when you asked me if you could come out here, what did I tell you? I mean, you asked me, and I knew you were going to come out no matter what I said, but what did I tell you? Do you remember what I told... NICKY (Interrupting) Back - ACE ...you? Do you remember what I told you? NICKY Back - Back up, back up a fuckin' minute here. One minute. I asked you?! When the fuck did I ever ask you if I could come out here?! Get this through your head, you - ACE (Interrupting) You never - ? NICKY Get this through your head, you Jew motherfucker, you. You only exist out here because of me! That's the only reason! Without me, you, personally, every fuckin' wiseguy skell [Skell: the lowest form of wiseguy - a drunken bum] around'll take a piece of your fuckin' Jew ass! Then where you gonna go?! You're fuckin' warned! Don't ever go over my fuckin' head again! You motherfucker, you! NICKY drives off, leaving an angry and frustrated ACE to ponder the desert and the holes.