Goodfellas has become a classic and rightfully so. Here is a movie in which there’s an intelligent script which is based on a true story with powerhouse acting and tight directing. On every front the movie excels. From the minute the movie starts the voice-over by Liotta, playing the lead-role of Henry Hill on which, grabs you by the throat and drags you into a world why will attract you without a doubt but, as was commented on in the supplements, is also a world in which people don’t have a long life-span. Yet every day people enlist into that world and Henry Hill was one of them.
Henry Hill, half Italian, half Irish, runs small errands for the local mob. Attracted to them due to their lifestyle and power he is hypnotized by their world. They like him and from errands it’s just a small step to thefts and drugs. So he, together with pure-bred gangster Tommy, slowly move up in the hierarchy of the mob. Like Scarface this movie deals with the rise and fall so it’s not all glamorizing the gangster lifestyle here. This movie ranks with The Godfather parts I and II and Scarface as the best gangster movies ever made. The story is simply gripping and I see no way the movie could’ve been made any better. It all falls into place like a carefully constructed piece and everything’s just right. If I have to make a remark it would be the acting of Liotta. Now, this was his breakthrough role but at one point, the infamous “how am I funny scene” Liotta acts as he’s laughing at Pesci but it felt fake to me. But that’s just nitpicking because the rest of the movie is his show even if he doesn’t get top billing. Sure DeNiro and certainly Pesci do some powerhouse acting but it’s Liotta’s Henry Hill who’s life we follow and thus the movie rests on his shoulders. Without a good performance from him it would collapse. His rise and fall is captivating, his story interesting and surprising. The most remarkable of all is a scene where he is in prison and he’s sharing a room with his mob-buddies and due to their connections it feels nothing like a prison.
Now completing Liotta are DeNiro and Pesci. For Pesci this movie vaporized anybodies memories of his appearance in the Michael Jackson egotrip Moonwalker in which Pesci walked around shouting while having a dildo on the back of his head. Too bad for Pesci he would appear the same year in Home Alone. But his role is memorable as he’s actions are simply over the top but somehow realistic. The aforementioned “how am I funny scene” is just one of them. Pesci is full of energy here and his character constantly sets things in motion with his relentless behavior. Now the yang of Pesci’s ruthless yin comes from DeNiro. He acts in a subdued manner, in some cases he doesn’t even talk but lets his eyes do all the acting.
Now what must be mentioned is the direction of Scorsese. In the first half when Liotta has got some respect and power there’s a long tracking shot in which we follow him from the outside of a nightclub through the side-entrance, through different corridors, eventually reaching the main area where a table is being brought in and dressed especially for him. There are tons of small details taken into account, certain shots which enrich the movie. At one point near the end Liotta out of nowhere breaks the fourth wall and gets away with it. If you’re an aspiring director it would be wise to analyse Goodfellas frame by frame.
Goodfellas is a classic, nothing more, nothing less.