Daily Recco, February 17: Classic GoodFellas is all about mob life and a lot more
Need a break from midweek monotony? Watch the classic American mafia movie — GoodFellas — streaming on Netflix.
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There are mafia movies (of the Godfather ilk) and then there is GoodFellas (1990). From action to dark humour, complexity to irony, it is a barely fictionalised adaptation of the true-crime book Wiseguy (published in 1985) by American journalist Nicholas Pileggi.
The book chronicles the life of Henry Hill — the well-known American mobster-turned-informant. And the film, co-written and directed by Hollywood giant Martin Scorsese, is a remarkable piece of filmmaking that captures the life of Hill being a mobster in New York in the 1960s and 1970s in the brio of hard-hitting bio-drama.
The film opens in 1955 where a young Henry Hill (essayed brilliantly by Ray Liotta) is seen to be enamoured by the Mafia presence in the working-class Italian-American neighbourhood in Brooklyn where he grows up. The story then moves to show Hill to be working for the local Mafia caporegime (captain), Paulie (played by Paul Sorvino), truck hijacker and gangster Jimmy Conway (played by Robert De Niro), and juvenile delinquent Tommy DeVito (played by Joe Pesci — the role that bagged him the Oscars). Hill soon works his way to the top with more serious crimes, woos his future wife Karen Friedman Hill (played by Lorraine Bracco) who married him, seduced by his glamorous lifestyle.
The film explores the Mafia relationships, their disconnect from the world outside and shatters the myths of Mafia loyalty — Hill is seen ratting his associates and “friends” out to the FBI and Jimmy is portrayed as someone who would rather kill his accomplices rather than share the profits from one of the biggest American heists. The story skates through Hill’s rises and falls, eventually to him becoming an FBI informer to save his skin and how he is forced out of his gangster life, to readjust to “normal” life.
Scorsese proves to be the best director for the kind of a film that explores what it is like to be in the Mafia — the good and the bad, the portrayal of power and questions of loyalty so intrinsically associated with the Mafia. It is no surprise whatsoever that the film bagged a host of accolades, including several nominations for the Oscars.
But the accolades should not be your reason to watch GoodFellas. Watch this film on Netflix for some great drama and experience the sheer brilliance of Scorsese’s filmmaking to break out of the midweek monotony.