WHAT I LIKED: Mafia movies like Scorsese's Vegas-based 'Casino,' follow characters hooked by the lure and hope of a clearly poisonous world. At their best ('Goodfellas,' 'Donnie Brasco,') they delve into the conflict of conscience that occurs within the individuals wrapped up in it all, but far too often ('The Godfather,' 'Mean Streets,') they spend more of their time indulging in that appeal. 'Casino,' is a film that sits very much in the latter camp, as the majority plays out like a satirical and observational documentary. The whole thing is backed by the kind of ironic narration Scorsese's become so fond of which shows the characters convincing themselves how unbelievably awesome everything is, jukebox music plays against even the most evil and manipulative actions, and scenes are edited together like one long montage throughout the ten-year span that it follows. That certainly packs some surface-level appeal, particularly when the sets and intricacies of the mafia's dealings are so well realised by everyone involved, and when the irony is pushed so far to the surface.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The only trouble is, like in 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' there's very little conscience on display. Indeed, even though the obvious irony of these guys' rose-tinted dreams is made clear by the way they breezily narrate the awfulness that unfolds, you never really get the sense of any inner conflict. Both casino manager Sam (Robert De Niro) and mob-man Nicki (Joe Pesci) seem to truly believe themselves, and the only person who really starts to feel the burn is Sam's wife Ginger (Sharon Stone). The lack of humanity means the near-three hours of Mafia/gambling dealings become pretty tiresome and disconnecting to watch no matter how frantic the pace becomes.
VERDICT: 'Casino,' is one of those instances where Scorsese is clearly more interested in the lure of the poisonous world he's depicting than the conflict of the characters within it.