Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino

"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster."
-Henry Hill (Ray Liotta)

After The Godfather was released in 1972, mob films were never the same.  It was the film that made gangsters cool.  There were the Corleones, and then there was everybody else.  With the exception of The Godfather: Part II, no mob film could ever measure up to the greatness of Francis Ford Coppola's gangster masterpiece.  This was the case for nearly twenty years until Martin Scorsese made a little film known as Goodfellas.
Henry Hill (Liotta) has wanted to be a gangster as long as he can remember.  As a kid, he quits school and starts working for some mobsters in his neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Henry works for Paul "Paulie" Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and his brother Tuddy (Frank DiLeo).  When his father (Beau Starr) comes across a letter from the school indicating that his son has been truant, he beats Henry within an inch of his life.  However, Henry's connections within the mob ensure that no more letters from the school of any kind will reach the Hill household.  Naturally, Henry’s associates threatened the mail man.

As Henry starts to really build a life in the mob, Paulie puts him under the tutelage of Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci).  Both of these gangsters have a certain penchant for thievery. From them, he learns a great deal but he also witnesses their brutality firsthand.  Conway will kill anyone in his way in order to survive.  DeVito will just kill anybody depending on his mood.  When the trio commits the Air France Robbery in 1967, one of the largest heists in history, Henry hits the big time.  His time at the top is limited though.  When Jimmy and Tommy kill Billy Batts, a made member of the Gambino family, things change.  Nobody kills a made man without the permission of the family bosses.

Goodfellas is one of the best films ever made.  Martin Scorsese's signature film transports us to a different world, a place where might is right and criminals live like movie stars.  He takes us on a trip back in time to an era when criminals are considered more powerful than politicians.  From the moment Tony Bennett's "Rags to Riches" hit, I knew I was in for something special.  Scorsese takes us on a powerful journey that shows us the glitz and glamor that a life of crime affords.  He also shows us the brutality and menace that it takes to make this lifestyle a reality.  Goodfellas is an awesome, bloody blueprint for the modern mob flick.

The two things I love most about the movie are the music and the culture.  Because Goodfellas is a period piece that takes us from the 1950s straight through the 1980s, music is so important.  It's the instantly recognizable part of the film that helps define the setting, and Scorsese breaks out the good stuff for this flick.  There's something for everyone to enjoy, whether it be Dean Martin, Aretha Franklin, or The Rolling Stones.  When a tune hits, you instantaneously know the time in which the film is set.  Scorsese really captures the music of the era.

The culture in Goodfellas is just as important as the music.  Scorsese does a phenomenal job of introducing viewers to the culture of the mafia.  He really gets into the nuts and bolts of mob life — the routines, the business, and the relationships.  The film delves into the hierarchy and structure of the mafia, how mobsters run businesses into the ground for their own financial gain, their social lives with their wives and mistresses, and most importantly their delicious food.  I like to think I eat well, but these gangsters eat better than I do while they're in prison!  These Italian-Americans can seriously eat.  The fine cuisine might be the most important tradition they’ve carried over from the old country.

The acting in Goodfellas is top notch.  Ray Liotta does a good job as Henry Hill.  I really love his first person narration.  It really helps us to get inside the head of his character.  It helps us to understand his love for the mafia and what motivates him.  He’s great for the role of Henry Hill.  Lorraine Bracco does a great job as the feisty Karen Hill.  As her character declines emotionally, she gets more opportunities to shine on camera.  With her rugged beauty, Bracco steals quite a few scenes. 

As good as Liotta and Bracco are as the leading couple of the film, the real standouts of Goodfellas are Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.  De Niro's Jimmy Conway is the kind of guy who roots for the bad guys in a movie.  Because he’s just that good, De Niro will make you want to do the same in this one.  He portrays a character that really understands what it takes to survive in the brutal life of a mobster.  As Conway says, "Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut".  As the film progresses, De Niro transitions Conway from a slick, beloved criminal to a paranoid killing machine we all can love.  This is one of his best performances in a mob movie.

In his Oscar-winning role, Joe Pesci is phenomenal.  He brings Tommy DeVito to life as a violent, compulsive nut.  As this self-destructive loose cannon, Pesci steals one scene after another.  His character DeVito is like a train wreck.  We see this maniac doing utterly insane things.  We know he will probably meet his demise in the end for his senseless acts of violence.  Nonetheless, we watch him because he's just so captivating.  Goodfellas is Joe Pesci's finest hour.  He hits all the right notes and is simply dynamic.

It's hard to measure the impact of a landmark film like Goodfellas.  It changed everything we know about mob movies.  The Godfather offers an elegant, refined image of mob life, while Goodfellas offers only authenticity and brutality.  It went to a much darker place than previous crime films and gave us the blueprint for the modern crime drama.  For this Martin Scorsese, I say thank you.  Goodfellas gets a sober rating.  If you haven't seen this one, I just can't help you.  You’re a lost cause as a moviegoer.