After 25 Years, "Goodfellas" Finally Comes Home For Its Shinebox Review

On April 25th, at the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival closed out in a big way with the 4K restoration of Martin Scorsese’s virtuoso crime epic, GoodFellas. Audiences watched wide-eyed as they were treated to a trip down memory lane, revisiting the master director’s explosive entrance to a new decade originally released in 1990, leaving no doubt that he was still at the top of his game and redefining storytelling, genres, and cinema itself. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) always wanted to be a gangster. Starting in his childhood neighborhood, idolizing the local hoods, led by Paul Sorvino’s “Paulie” Circero. One of the film’s narrative threds is hit early, when Hill recites the mafia’s mantra: “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” Oh, how far he has to go.

Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci transcend into cinematic history with the double act of “Jimmy the Gent” Conway and erratic funny man Tommy DeVito, who form a turbulent trio with Hill as the three rise through the ranks of Made Men. No less commendable is Lorraine Bracco’s harrowing journey as Hill’s tormented wife, Karen. Based on co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, Scorsese crafts a meticulous and diabolically seductive crime film, simultaneously balancing truly bad men with depths of humor and humanity that make the wiseguy lifestyle disconcertingly tantalizing, even as it spirals violently out of control. Coming up through the cinematic school of Roger Corman, under whose tutelage and incomparable hotbed of creative inspiration, the great masters of the latter 20th century would find their first opportunities and proving ground, Scorsese exploded onto the scene with 1973’s Mean Streets, introducing the world to Harvey Keitel and Robert de Niro in the process. Taxi Driver came in 1976 and there was no doubt that the counter-cultural moment had been captured by a young master deftly redefining cinematic boundaries and shifting the very direction of the medium. With Raging Bull in 1980, Scorsese ticked off his second decade as a director in his prime helming motion picture masterpieces. With over 20 films to his name, many exemplary, GoodFellas nonetheless stands out with the chosen few that will outlive changing mediums and formats, preserving Scorsese’s legacy in the vanguard of the silver screen’s finest.

Scorsese himself oversaw the 4K restoration from an original film negative scan. The care is evident in every gritty, immaculate frame. Devout fans wrung their hands for decades as Scorsese was nominated for five Best Director Oscars and two more for Best Screenplay, including GoodFellas, but always came up short. His defeats almost became a badge of honor to those who recalled that Hitchcock himself never made off with a Best Director statuette, despite his incomparable contribution of some of the greatest masterworks of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Eventually, Scorsese took the prize in 2007 for helming The Departed, and has scored four more nominations since. In 1990, however, Dances With Wolves took the limelight. Roger Ebert considered GoodFellas as the greatest mob film ever made, but the Academy voters weren’t swayed. While Henry Hill vs. Lieutenant Dunbar have been unfairly pitted against each other ever since in the circles of film snobbery and snubs, GoodFellas is better than the awards, or lack thereof. It is a dizzying, spellbinding descent into the glamorous Siren Song of self-destructive criminality. Every crime film and show since has lifted heavily from Scorsese’s landmark style, pathos, and tone. The Sopranos even went so far as to outright steal actors -- many of them. Henry Hill may have disappeared into Witness Protection, but the film still brazenly walks the neighborhood in shined shoes and steep collar points.

BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES

Two commentaries: Cast and Crew and Cop and Crook. New documentary with actors from numerous Scorsese films discussing working with the director, including: Robert de Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jack Nicholson. Other features: Getting Made, Made Men, The Workaday Gangster, Paper Is Cheaper Than Film, trailer. To top it off, a 36-page photo book with some superb prints and solid binding.

"GoodFellas" is on sale May 5, 2015 and is rated R. Crime, Drama. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Written by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese. Starring Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro.

Jun
19
2015
Kyle North • Staff Writer

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