GOODFELLAS: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t know this quote? Is there anyone who hasn’t seen Goodfellas? And can it really be 25 years since the release of Scorsese’s epic crime drama?
At its heart Goodfellas is a memoir of a gangster life. The central story comes from Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, a non-fiction account of the life of mobster Henry Hill who latterly became an informant, with Scorsese and Pileggi adding fictionalised embellishments to the screenplay. Set over a period of around 25 years, Goodfellas follows Hill (Ray Liotta), Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Oscar winner Joe Pesci) as they progress up through the ranks of the crime family through opportunistic cunning and extreme violence. The celebratory feeling that exists in the opening scenes is quickly dispelled during a scene of murderous brutality when DeVito kills a young lackey and the true nature of these reluctantly likeable men is realised.
As outstanding as the performances are from the leads and the roster of supporting actors, including Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino, Goodfellas is Scorsese’s film. The depth of the detail he instils into every frame of film, every movement or mannerism delivered by an actor, every meaningful word of dialogue is brilliant in its simplicity. The naturalistic way the camera observes each scene, allowing it room to breathe and develop, never rushing impatiently towards a punchline or plot point, is an example of masterful filmmaking. Often the story splits into seemingly unimportant tangents that add texture and understanding to the characters’ day-to-day lives. Sometimes relevant, often not, these simple asides create a bond with the characters that many films strive for yet fail to achieve; an understanding of their lives however repellent or barbaric their actions may appear. That you care so deeply about Hill, Conway and even the unpredictably psychotic DeVito is symptomatic of Scorsese’s absolute control over his art with Goodfellas. These aren’t the mansion-dwelling gangsters of The Godfather, these are real men who live on the streets and whose extraordinary lives retain much of the mundanity of normal people. This is a work so full of memorable scenes, both famous and infamous, that it feels as much a home movie as any feature film.
To commemorate the silver anniversary of Goodfellas, without question one of the most loved and revered films in cinema history and Scorsese’s best (it is, let’s just agree on that), there is this special edition Blu-ray release. Alongside an expected but brilliantly insightful new documentary about the film that includes interviews with all involved (except sadly the retired Pesci), there are several other making of featurettes that delve deep within Goodfellas and the gangster world. While there will always be more questions to be asked and analysis to be offered of such an important film, there is enough here to keep everyone happy. Such is the joy in watching some of the most iconic filmmakers of all time, including Scorsese’s long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, discuss the minutiae of their film you may find yourself watching the extras each time you watch the main feature itself.
Never has the art of filmmaking been so perfectly demonstrated by a cast and crew led by a director at his peak. Never will a film offer so much to the viewer, with something new to discover and enjoy on each sitting. If a film could be perfect, this would be it.
If you already own a copy of Goodfellas, buy this edition. If you don’t own a copy of Goodfellas, buy this edition. It’s that simple.
Special Features: Two audio commentaries / Scorsese’s Goodfellas documentary / Five featurettes / Theatrical trailer / Letter from Martin Scorsese / 36-page booklet
INFO: GOODFELLAS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE / SCREENPLAY: NICHOLAS PILEGGI, MARTIN SCORSESE / STARRING: RAY LIOTTA, JOE PESCI, ROBERT DE NIRO, LORRAINE BRACCO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW