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Goodfellas: 25 Years of Wiseguy Wisdom By RICK BALDWIN

“I faced it all and I stood tall; and did it my way.”-Frank Sinatra

Almost everyone is fascinated with the lifestyle, choices, and thoughts of the criminal mind.  Is it because people are generally good and daydream about the excitement of being a villain in our everyday lives?  Possibly.  Hailing from Philadelphia, our neighborhoods were littered with nefarious, but charismatic characters of the Italian, Russian, Irish, and Polish mobs.  Never wanting to cross these families on their turfs, I was fascinated from afar at their lifestyle with a kid’s inquisitive point of view.  Later, as a cop and an investigator, this led me to be more intrigued than I was as a kid, with the chemistry of the criminal mind.  A majority of us, and this is a good thing, will always be on the outside looking in on these crime families, their code, and inner workings.  Today’s marinara mob feature takes us deep into the lives of very real Mafia, very real crimes, and very real consequences to leading such a life.   Without further ado signore e signori, in celebration of its 25th anniversary of its award winning release, Goodfellas (1990).

1955: Henry Hill, Ray Liotta of Narc (2002), narrates his past as a boy growing up in Brooklyn across the street from a Lucchese crime family run cabstand.  Henry yearns for a life of wealth, power, and respect in hopes of shedding the skin of his blue collar family.  Henry finds his dreams coming to fruition when he is welcomed by the mob to carry out small jobs.  Before you know it, Henry is living the life of a teenage street hood, making greenbacks, and protected by his new gangster family.  Henry, like any kid, is naïve on his path of false enlightment, but learns quickly the new way of life with its understood code, “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” An important life lesson that foreshadows his dilemma decades later in the 1980s.

Fast forward years later, Henry is now a cool confident cat that runs heists, cons, and hijackings with Jimmy, Robert De Niro of Mean Streets (1973) and the short tempered Tommy, Joe Pesci of Family Enforcer (1976), while working for capo Paulie, Paul Sorvino of The Stuff (1985).  We are flies on the wall watching the wise guys whack, intimidate, and bring in the cash when they aren’t preoccupied with the ladies by taking in an evening at the legendary Copacabana.

Henry, being the young confident and suave gent that he is, quickly steals the heart of Karen, Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos (1999).  Karen is seduced by the flash, easy cash, and sweet lifestyle that would prove to have its severe ups & downs before going sour.

If you have never seen Goodfellas, then put down the cannoli, stop reading this review, and watch it now! Without giving away spoilers, we take a trip with Henry in and out of the pen, assist with the infamous Lufthansa Heist, wrangle mistresses, smuggle dope, and clean up messy murders.  What would be Henry’s downfall?  Would Henry escape the lethal lifestyle that he loved unscathed?  Watch for the first time, or rediscover why Goodfellas is one of the most beloved films of all-time.

Goodfellas was directed by film guru, Martin Scorsese of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).  Scorsese, an astute student of film, and makes references in particular shots to such classics as The Great Train Robbery (1903), Red River (1948), and Shane (1953), just to name a few.  Scorsese is excellent in his directorial vision as he excels the balancing act of excitement, violence, humor, while examining this lifestyle with a touch of glamour spattered with bloody realism.  Scorsese, always the constant observer, directs Goodfellas with such detail and care due to his younger years growing up in New York’s Little Italy taking note of such characters.  Scorsese is the quintessential filmmaker to tell such a story, achieving such genuine insight to this material rendering him one of the most respected filmmakers in history.  

Scorsese, also a music lover, uses popular music as a counterpoint to the dramatic moments in his films.  Goodfellas has a great soundtrack showcasing such talents as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and Sid Vicious.  The music is very important to Scorsese films, as each song is a precise voice to underline every moment and helps explain the transition through the decades.

Goodfellas is a film adaptation of the enjoyable Nicholas Pileggi’s nonfiction novel, Wiseguy, who scribed the screenplay with Scorsese.  Goodfellas is one of those contemporary classics that has been referenced and parodied countless times since its 1990 release.  Even avid film watchers, know certain scenes or bits of dialogue from this memorable mob movie.  If this is your first viewing, and you have sensitive ears, be forewarned that “F” bombs are dropped close to 300 times, mainly from Pesci.

Goodfellas takes the viewer on a slow expansion through levels of the Mafia, with characters introduced casually and some of them not really developed until later in the story.  The acting is spot on, with the every scene being memorable due to great direction, meticulous prep work by all involved, and the freedom of improvisation.  The viewer can feel the camaraderie between character and actor, and get the sense that all involved had a great time during production.  Goodfellas definitely walks the walk and talks the talk.

Overall, Goodfellas is a highly enjoyable flick, and like any good Italian meal, leaves the viewer stuffed, wanting a bit more after 146 minutes.  Goodfellas is one of the few movies that stays with the viewer…forever.  It’s that good.

Check out the Goodfellas Trailer:



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