A collection of the film industry’s superstars, Casino (1995) stands as one of the best films ever made about gambling, or the city of Las Vegas. Director Martin Scorsese leads a legendary ensemble of actors in a riveting tale of envy, lust, and greed. Scorsese unites once again with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who play Sam Rothstein and Nicholas Santoro, a couple of gangsters serving out mob justice to Sin City. Their longtime friendship is tested when the tempestuous femme fatale Ginger McKenna, played by Sharon Stone, gets between them. The versatile James Woods leads a wonderful supporting cast that brings the sordid history of Las Vegas to life.
Rothstein and Santoro are loosely based upon two real life mobsters: Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro. Casino is a portrayal of their careers in Las Vegas; the fictional Tangiers casino in the movie is a representation of the several properties the two men ran for the Chicago Outfit, most notably the Stardust. Rosenthal was a professional sports bettor that the mob used to oversee the casino operation, while Spilotro was a hardened street thug, familiar with all manner of violent crime. Together, the two men were sent to Las Vegas by mob bosses to oversee the skim, organized crime’s illegal siphoning of casino profits. McKenna too is based upon Rosenthal’s real life wife: Geraldine "Geri" McGee. All in all, Casino provides a fairly accurate, albeit highly romanticized, version of real events from the history of Las Vegas.
Casino is a thoroughly enjoyable ride, pleasing to gamblers and movie audiences alike. It paints a compelling portrait of some of the most questionable characters and vice-ridden intentions that fueled the maturation of Sin City.
Final Grade: A+