Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco
Length: 145 min
Label: Warner Bros
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78: 1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1080p; 1.78:1; 29:54): Produced by Brett Ratner, this new retrospective documentary isn’t quite what is described on the Blu-ray’s back cover, which lists several interviewees who don’t appear (namely, Jack Nicholas and Joe Pesci). But it’s still a fine documentary filled with memorable stories and observations from a wide array of commentators. Participants from the Goodfellas clan include Scorsese, Pileggi, Liotta, De Niro, Bracco, editor Thelma Schoonmaker and producer Irwin Winkler. Additional participants include Harvey Keitel, Leonardo DiCaprio and Terence Winter, creator of Boardwalk Empire and screenwriter of The Wolf of Wall Street.
- Book: The 36-page book contains a fine collection of film and production stills and an insightful essay entitled “The American Dream Gone Mad: The Legacy of Goodfellas.”
- Letter: Scorsese’s letter summarizes his artistic goals for the film and acknowledges his collaborators.
Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas turns 25 this year. It still is the quintessential mobster film of all time and just one of the greatest films, and that’s without hyperbole, as this comes from the man who already had “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” under his belt. Not that the Academy Awards are the end-all, be-all for quality cinema, but at the awards’ 63rd year, the film boasted six nominations, including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing and Joe Pesci won for Supporting Actor. 1990’s GoodFellas has also been the one film that many other represenatives in the crime genre have tried to emulate, or to some degree, ripped off. In many ways, this is still a perfect film, the most definitive one about the power of greed, and brought to even more perfection with Warner Bros.’ two-disc Blu-ray 25th Anniversary edition.
Co-adapted from crime reporter Nicolas Pileggi’s 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by director Martin Scorsese and Pileggi himself, GoodFellas is the rise-and-fall story of mobster-cum-FBI informant Henry Hill. Ray Liotta has never been better and leads the way as the alternately magnetic and despicable Hill, who, as far back he could remember, “always wanted to be a gangster.” As the film unfolds under Liotta’s narration, we follow back to when 13-year-old Henry was growing up in the 1950s in his blue-collar Italian-American Brooklyn neighborhood, idolizing the Lucchese mob. Besides, the life of being a part of the mob came with multiple surface perks — connections, women, cash, and respect. He would soon quit school and make a living for himself as a gofer for boss Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvivo), after learning the Lucchese’s two mottos: “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” Then, by 1970, Henry made his way in the hierarchy, getting in with the no-nonsense Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and the volatile Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), and partaking in mob hits and drug-dealing. However, besides marrying a lovely Jewish woman named Karen (Lorraine Bracco) and having children, mafia life came with betrayal when anyone broke the two mottos: “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.”
Absorbing and tightly paced, even at two hours and twenty-six minutes, GoodFellas is accomplished in its storytelling as it is in its technical craftsmanship. We see why Henry is so enamored with the mob, which is essentially a fraternity with robbing and killing, but as he makes the shift into the ranks, we see that it’s anything but romantic and can rock the boat of relationships and sour one’s values. Every character is vividly written and fleshed out to more than “good” and “bad,” including Henry, who’s not a good man and yet he has our sympathy to the very end as a flawed character study. Lending a rich tapestry to this slice-of-crime-life are a series of finely etched performances that stray into caricature. First and foremost, there’s Robert De Niro, a frequent collaborator of Scorsese’s, and as Jimmy Conway, he snugly inhabits both views of what makes the mob desirable and dangerous with his innate charisma and wiseguy personality. Joe Pesci rightfully won an Oscar for his splashy turn as hair-trigger-tempered Tommy DeVito, who made an iconic scene out of asking, “What do you mean I’m funny?” and all his own unscripted doing with Liotta. Even despite Tommy’s violent unpredictability, he’s a mama’s boy, as he, Jimmy, and Henry end up having a late-night snack at his mother’s (Catherine Scorsese) house before taking a knife to finish off mobster Billy Bats in their trunk. Lorraine Bracco—the sole female who’s not a mistress—is also unexpected dynamite as Karen, Henry’s wife, the film’s moral center who also gets a crack at narration with Henry. Initially, her Karen is attracted to her husband being in with the mafia, but once learning of his affairs and immoral secrets, she holds her own. Bracco is not a weak link, completely conveying strength and vulnerability.
Watching GoodFellas again for this review, there’s still a freshness to all of Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking choices. It feels as exciting and as invigorating as his more recent work (i.e. Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street), and in many respects, it is a horror film where danger percolates in every frame and the stakes remain high. On the technical side, Scorsese orchestrates some of his most memorable sequences in American cinema, from the attention-getting opening with a dead man being violently finished off in a trunk, to the fluid tracking shot that follows Henry entering from the kitchen of the Copacabana nightclub on his first date with Karen, to the helicopter sequence with a paranoid, coked-up Henry. The time-appropriate song choices from pop standards and classic rock hits are indelible (The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” on Henry and Karen’s date) and sometimes indelibly ironic (Derek and The Dominos’ “Layla (Piano Exit)” playing over a couple of kids finding two dead bodies in the front seats of a purple car to two corpses being found by the garbage men).
The new 4k restoration by Warner Bros., for the 25th Anniversary edition of Goodfellas, which was supervised by Scorsese himself, surpasses expectations. Compared to the 2007 BD, which was mastered from an older scan, the new release shows a whole new dimension of detail and image depth that couldn’t be seen before under a layer of fairly coarse grain and digital noise. By comparison, film grain on the new restoration is very fine and evenly distributed. Colors also look more accurate; with more realistic contrast and no crush either at the top or bottom. There are also no obvious signs of DNR or edge sharpening. In sum: a superb new restoration of this classic film, which, on technical grounds, supplants all previous home video releases.
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track makes the sudden and loud gunshots hit you like a hammer in this release. Everything sounds crystal clear, with the many layers of ambient sound, combined with musical numbers and dialogue mixed with perfect precision.
The new 25 Anniversary Edition retains all the same extras of the previous blu-rays, which include the original cast and crew commentary; a second commentary with former wiseguy Henry Hill and FBI agent Edward McDonald; a 30-minute ‘making of’ documentary; a 105-minute documentary about the history of gangster films; a 15-minute featurette on the legacy of Goodfellas; an 8-minute ‘the career of a gangster’ featurette; 4 classic WB cartoons, including Bugs Bunny; a 4-minute storyboard to shot comparison; and a theatrical trailer. Additionally, the new release includes a brand new 30-minute documentary called Scorsese’s Goodfellas, which features interviews with Scorsese, some of the cast, and other actors including Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci.
If there are any complaints, it’s not of the film itself but of the disappointing cover art of the Blu-ray (where is Joe Pesci?). Otherwise: worthy of being called an actual classic, GoodFellas is Scorsese’s sprawling but hyper-focused masterpiece of expert filmmaking style with great performances, brutal dark humor, and savagely visceral, still-shocking violence. There is not an extraneous moment to be found in Scorsese and judicious editor Thelma Schoonmaker’s final cut.