Casino (Movie Review)
When you double down at blackjack or go all in on Texas hold’em, you’re gambling with real money. But it doesn’t feel that way. You’ve exchanged cash for colorful little chips that represent actual currency, so your losses don’t sting quite as much. And many casinos let you load money onto a card that can be used in digital games, further dissociating your gambling from spending real money.
Every casino game offers a mathematical expectancy, which means that it is very rare for the house to lose money on any given day. That virtual assurance of gross profit allows casinos to lavish big bettors with extravagant inducements like free spectacular entertainment, dinners, luxury hotel rooms, limousine transportation and airline tickets. And of course, they serve plenty of booze—because booze lowers inhibitions and clouds judgment.
Scorsese’s ambivalence about this industry is apparent in the truly hellacious violence that permeates the movie, including an eyeball-popping torture scene and a sound-designed baseball bat beating that had to be trimmed to avoid an NC-17 rating. But he is equally ferocious in his depiction of the smart hustler Ginger (Stone), who exults in her ability to seduce and control men while operating with a demagnetized moral compass.
Like Goodfellas, Casino traces the decline of organized crime in Vegas, but it has more of a linear story line and is less fragmented. De Niro and Pesci give strong performances, but it’s Stone who really stands out. Her performance is electrifying and a definite step up from Basic Instinct.