Over the course of his five decade career, Martin Scorsese has established himself as one of the great Crime movie directors of our time. He’s dabbled in other genres, of course, but from Mean Streets through Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York and most recently The Irishman, he’s consistently gravitated back towards the complicated inner workings of organised gangs.
If you asked people what the greatest of these films might be, the majority would most likely cite Goodfellas. Watching it back after digesting The Irishman in all its long, ponderous glory, the similarities between the two are striking. They could almost be described as companion movies. Where The Irishman spends a lot of time on the fall of a trio of elderly mob associates, Goodfellas is generally more concerned with the rise.
Ray Liotta stars as real-life mobster Henry Hill, who falls in with a Brooklyn gang at an early age and rises quickly through the ranks, frequently working alongside older gangsters Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Conway (Robert DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). Along the way he marries nice Jewish Girl Karen (Lorraine Bracco), whose initial bewilderment at the enclosed world of mob wives drives much of the humour of the first half of the film, before her arc takes a decidedly dark turn later on.
Like the Irishman, Goodfellas is a baggy movie that unfolds at a leisurely pace and favours subtle character development over traditional crime movie tension. The body count is predictably high, but many of the murders feel mundane and inevitable – with the exception of a few explosive Pesci moments. Liotta’s character feels like a natural cousin to DeNiro’s Frank Sheeran from The Irishman – both looking back from the end of a career with conflicted feelings. They’ve survived a ruthless industry, but at what cost? The only major difference is that Liotta’s character gets out relatively early.
There’s more discussion of the similarities and differences between the two films on this week’s podcast, plus our thoughts on mob movie feminism, DeNiro’s questionable cry-acting, some very exciting wig watch developments and much more. All this plus drinking games, listener submissions and of course, our sequel pitches. You’d be a schmuck not to listen!
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Next week, a special guest gives us a crash course on the beautiful game, as played by one of Hollywoods premier action super stars. Until then, happy listening, and remember – keep your mouth shut and don’t be a rat…