Martin Scorsese has made three films about those scum-of-the-Earth people known as the Mafia. This was the first, and I think still the best, though both Casino and The Departed were excellent. And though I dearly loved the Godfather saga, I’m sure this is a lot closer to what a life in the Mob is all about. And what stands out to me is … how dumb these mooks were. It’s a true story, and the level of stupidity is monumental. You realize that probably the main reason they became gangsters is that they would be total failures at anything that didn’t include brutality. These scumbags prey on honest people, bribe governmental officials and police, steal just for the fun of it. They are rolling in dough, passing out hundred-dollar bills to every doorman and waiter in New York. They live in nightclubs with their tramp mistresses, while their tramp wives stay home and enjoy the money that keeps rolling in. (Oh, yes, I have no sympathy at all for Mafia wives. They know what’s going on.)
It’s the story of Henry Hill, a mid-level weasel who never did an honest day’s work in his life, and who, when his cocaine habit made him even dumber than nature intended, ratted on about fifty of his buddies and went into witless protection. Along the way he brutalizes countless people. It is narrated by Ray Liotta as Hill, and by Lorraine Bracco as his wife. He is half guinea and half mick, so he can never be a “made man,” because you have to be a full-bred wop, and preferably Sicilian, to get to the top levels. His companions in crime are Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci. Pesci plays one of the scariest people I have ever seen in the movies, and really earned his Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Tommy DeVito is a guy who would kill you for farting in his direction, not only a stupid scumbag but a genuine psychopath. One of the most satisfying moment in the movie is when his brains (such as they are) get blown out of his head. The movie is long, and worth every minute of it.