The moderate hype surrounding this relatively low key crime drama is that it was the final performance of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini, who rose to iconic status in the hit TV show The Sopranos playing charismatic mob boss Tony Soprano. Add to this the pairing of him with current hot property Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) and this was a more than alluring prospect for an evening’s entertainment.
Hardy plays Bob, a softly spoken, likable bartender at a local establishment that is used as a ‘drop’ for mob money that’s then handed over to a local Chechnyan gang. Gandolfini is Marv, former owner of the bar and cousin to Bob. Following a hold up one night however, Bob & Marv find themselves in debt to the gangsters and must figure a way of getting the stolen money back. At the same time Bob befriends a local girl who has more than a few problems herself.
As the final role for Gandolfini, this offered up little that wasn’t seen in The Sopranos and isn’t much of a stretch for the actor, even though he clearly still had presence. His character is also a little confusing and I found it hard understanding some of his actions. Hardy fairs better and clearly it’s his film and he again brings to the table a quiet, moody character that he seems to do in every film, with that hint of underlying rage. Noomi Rapace appears as the troubled love interest and is decent also, with her friendship with Bob proving the backbone of the story. For a crime drama this was less about people getting whacked and more a character-piece, but didn’t stand out in any particular way despite a screenplay from famed author Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island). Enjoyable at times and has a good ending, but overall a little too lightweight for it’s own good.
I first saw this acclaimed mob drama a number of year’s ago, and even though I knew it was based on a true story, only recently have I learned about the real-life events the story follows. Robert DeNiro plays professional gambler Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who gets the opportunity to run the Tangier’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the late seventies. He makes a big pil o’ cash for the mob ‘back home’ and attracts former childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) who also has ideas of making a killing on the strip…literally and figuratively. Meanwhile Ace falls for glamorous hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone) who soon complicates everyone’s lives.
A spiritual successor to director Martin Scorsese’s other famed mob classic Goodfellas, reuniting DeNiro with Pesci … who pretty much plays the same type of unhinged psycho that nabbed him an Oscar in ‘Fellas. DeNiro however, despite his character’s connections to the mob, is more the straight guy trying to avoid any sort of ‘heat’ – and his presence here commands the movie from beginning to end. Stone is a welcome inclusion to the Scorsese mob-movie fold and adds her usual sexy sass and grit in a role that pretty much enables this movie to have it’s own voice. At a butt-numbing three hours it can sometimes drag, yet the situations, strong performances and the whole glitz of the setting (not to mention a stellar soundtrack) make for great entertainment. It’s incredibly violent at times, to the point of being gratuitous (especially towards the end) and the story isn’t as engrossing as it thinks it is. Also some of the ‘artistic licence’ with the facts remain puzzling (Tangiers is fictional, based on the famed Stardust hotel) and DeNiro and Pesci’s character names are made up, but based on Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro respectively. Yet to quibble at this is to do the movie a disservice, as it remains another decent, if familiar mob drama from the true master of the subject.
The Blu-ray, re-issued for the movie’s 20th anniversary has a very nice image quality, retaining grain and detail even if some shots (especially in door and night time scenes) get a little fuzzy. The sound in DTS HD Master Audio, which is very dialogue-driven is mostly excellent and the fantastic soundtrack really brings this one to life. Vegas looks incredible also. The extras consist of a ‘moments with the cast & crew’ option which has pop up interviews as the movie plays. We also get a couple of detailed documentaries, as well as a few deleted scenes. However, there doesn’t seem anything here that wasn’t on previous releases … making for a bit of a cash-in.
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