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Martin Scorsese’s Casino isn’t just a longer version of Goodfellas.
Casino shows the gangster out of his comfort zone, forcing the “family” to go beyond its tight metropolitan boundaries. A few Chicago gangsters head to Las Vegas to expand their operation, their Jewish confidant, Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), pegged to run a large casino for the purpose of “legitimate business.”
But, as our Chi-town syndicate finds out, Las Vegas isn’t too keen on outsiders. Add in Ace’s volatile marriage, his hotheaded friend, and the group’s shaky dynamic, and you have a gangster flick turned on its head. Usually we see gangsters in well-established stomping grounds, running things in the neighborhood, fighting only to be “made men” and to settle scores. But Scorsese puts them out in the desert to fight against unfamiliar snakes and to play by different rules.
Aside from the usual riffraff—card counters, disrespectful patrons, and the upkeep to ensure the house stays winning—there’s a corrupt government looking for handouts. There’s little help with home so far away, not to mention the pesky FBI always ready to pounce. With Ace’s ego inflating as each slot arm is yanked, and his friends and family growing ever more suspicious, jealous, and discontent, there’s little room for trouble with the law. As the county clerk so clearly tells Ace:
“Your people never will understand the way it works out here. You’re all just our guests. But you act like you’re at home. Let me tell you somethin’, partner… you ain’t home.”
And, seriously, who needs all of this? What if these Chi-town mobsters had simply gotten into the online gambling game? Las Vegas can have all of its big casinos and dry desert expanses. The Mob wants one thing: money; and maybe drugs, women, the freedom to kill, their ego, and a good meal, but first and foremost it’s money they want.
Of course, in Casino, Ace just wants to run a business. He’s mixed up with the wrong crowd, but he could’ve avoided it all had he just been born in the age of online gambling.
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