Ray Liotta

GoodFellas (1990)

Year: 1990

Genre: Drama

Length: 146 Minutes

Based On: Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi

Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Language: English

What would it be like to be a foot soldier in the Mafia? Would it be exciting? Would it be frightening? Violent even? Or would it be a similar lifestyle to what is portrayed in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather trilogy? In Martin Scorsese’s mafia classic Goodfellas you get an amazing look into the life of a gangster. This is based on the best-selling and critically acclaimed true-crime novel, Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi (who also co-wrote the screenplay with director, Martin Scorsese) which is the first hand account of Irish-Italian Lucchesse crime family associate turned FBI informant, Henry Hill. This movie tells the story behind many infamous crimes such as the 1978 $6,000,000 Lufthansa Air Line robbery which led to the murders of ten people. This movie also includes a fabulous rock/pop soundtrack with songs such as the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter and Sid Vicious’ My Way.

Christopher Serrone (left) as a young Henry Hill. Robert De Niro (middle) as Jimmy Conway. Joe D’Onofrio (right) as a young Tommy DeVito.

The story begins as an Irish-Italian twelve year old boy, Henry Hill, later played by Ray Liotta, admires the Mafiosi that operate in his neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, including Lucchesse crime family caporegime Paul ‘Paulie’ Cicero (based on Paul Vario), played by Paul Sorvino, who soon recruits the teenager into his gang and later becomes a fatherly figure to him. Paulie then introduces Henry to some of the most violent mobsters in New York City; James ‘Jimmy the Gent’ Conway and the sociopath Tommy DeVito (based on Jimmy Burke and Tommy DeSimone), played by Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The three “goodfellas” then begin a twenty-five year rise and fall in Mafia hierarchy.

Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito. Ray Liotta (middle) as Henry Hill. Robert De Niro (right) as Jimmy Conway.

This is probably the best mob movie I’ve ever seen and also has my nomination for a few Academy Awards! Goodfellas is as exciting as movies can get. The violence is very realistic and accelerates the flow of the movie. Martin Scorsese directs a top-notch cast whose acting is flawless. In Goodfellas, Joe Pesci plays the role of a psychopathic Italian Mafia triggerman even better than Jack Nicholson plays the psychotic writer in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining! Nobody else in the world knows the Mafia underworld better than Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pilleggi. Scorsese is truly able to portray the lifestyle of this particular organized crime group.

Ray Liotta (left) as Henry Hill and Paul Sorvino (right) as Paul Cicero.

In one scene, Martin Scorsese perfectly captures the mentality of almost all Mafiosi. Tommy, Henry and numerous other gangsters are seated at a table listening to Tommy telling jokes and Henry tells Tommy that he is a funny guy. An apparently insulted and enraged Tommy asks how he is funny. Henry begins to show fear as his volatile Mafia partner acts more and more aggressive. Tommy then reveals he was only kidding with him. Henry was obviously afraid Tommy would kill him, that’s the way it is. Later in the movie during a voice over, Henry states that “People would get over arguments over nothing and before you knew it one of them was dead,” This scene shows the paranoia and fear that all mobsters experience at some point during their careers. In a Martin Scorsese career profile called Scorsese on Scorsese, Scorsese states that the “funny guy” scene in Goodfellas is the most realistic segment of any of his Mafia pictures.

I recommend Goodfellas as an outstanding movie to all gangster, true-crime, and biopic film fans. Goodfellas is often held as the most authentic film portrayal of life in a Mafia family ever captured on screen. If you are interested in watching a good crime-drama; sit back, relax and enjoy!

Here is the trailer: