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The life and times of Henry Hill, who grew up idolizing the wise guys in his neighborhood and eventually became one of them. With his friends Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, Henry lived the dream life of taking whatever he wanted and answering to no one – until everything caught up with him.
For more about GoodFellas and the GoodFellas Blu-ray release, see GoodFellas Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero
» See full cast & crew
GoodFellas Blu-ray Review
Second verse, same as the first...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 22, 2010
Is it possible to be declared one of the greatest films of all time, and manage to drop the F-bomb three-hundred times? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Goodfellas: a coarse, vulgar, visceral, gut-wrenching gangland tragedy from Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese that's earned a coveted spot among some truly unforgettable genre classics and groundbreaking masterpieces, and yes, is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. From its startling, unflinching performances to its portrayal of a man succumbing to his own devilish devices; from its depiction of violence to its arresting cinematography; from Scorsese's steely, unwavering direction to his impeccable grasp of character and story, Goodfellas is a cinematic powder keg like no other. Based on author Nicholas Pileggi's account of Henry Hill -- the infamous mobster-turned-informant who handed the FBI the keys to his cocaine-addled kingdom in 1980, and helped the agency secure more than fifty criminal convictions -- it's an unrelenting tour de force; a rapidfire biopic that doesn't pull a single punch, pummeling its audience with the ferocity of its increasingly unstable protagonist's rage and the madness of his unsavory world.
Goodfellas steps forward where The Godfather Part III slinks back. Nestled neatly between Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola's first two Godfather films and more modern mob sagas like David Chase's The Sopranos, Scorsese's unrelenting mafia stunner charts the devolution of organized crime in America amidst the influx of cocaine in the '70s; a surge that would change the rules of street-war forever. When we first meet Henry Hill (Christopher Serrone), he's just another rough-n-ready kid growing up in Brooklyn in the '50s, albeit one who idolizes his local crime family so much that he quits school to enroll in their seedy ranks. As our questionable narrator, an older, presumably wiser Henry (Ray Liotta) simplifies it, "as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." Easily adjusting to the demands of his new job, the ambitious young man quickly makes a name for himself and eventually attracts the attention of mob captain Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino), menacing heavy hitter Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), and temperamental hothead Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, the only actor to win an Oscar). Before long, Henry becomes one of the most feared men in New York, marries a Jewish woman named Karen (Lorraine Bracco) who's all too aware of the monster lurking inside the man, and gains the implicit trust of his criminal cohorts.
But then the pressures of Henry's dangerous lifestyle begin to press in. Karen catches him with another woman (Gina Mastrogiacomo), he serves time in prison, dabbles in drugs, becomes more and more paranoid, loses all his money, questions his closest friends, and inevitably loses complete control, sniffing powder every time his nerves get the best of him. When he agrees to testify against his long-time partners, it isn't out of guilt or shame, but simple, self-serving survival; the last resort of a man faced with the reality of his inevitable fate. And that's exactly what makes Goodfellas so compelling. Scorsese and Pileggi aren't interested in painting a favorable portrait of Hill, or suggesting that his actions, regardless of how many convictions they led to, were ever noble. They never romanticize his world or gloss over his actions, they never skim past his flaws or grant him a platform. Scorsese even undercuts the pride and exhilaration Liotta injects into Hill's narration with brash, matter-of-fact imagery and the detestable certainty of Hill's behavior. The allure of Henry's world and the siren song of its temptations are effectively projected but never celebrated; irony pulses beneath every scene, and tragedy is foreshadowed in every shot. More importantly, the filmmakers' gangsters and wiseguys fail to notice how uncomfortable the hell-beds they've made for themselves actually are. Some viewers may get a sense of sick pleasure watching the insanity unfold, but Scorsese is a more subtle director than that. Under his watchful eye, Goodfellas isn't an entertaining joyride, it's a harrowing plummet off a ravine.
For me, Goodfellas has always been a difficult film to watch. Its performances are powerful, its screenplay sharp and surprising, its pacing masterful, and its full-throttle intensity undeniable. But seeing any man come undone, especially one as well-crafted as Liotta's Henry Hill, isn't something I enjoy revisiting time and time again. Goodfellas is a potent film and Scorsese is a dynamic director, so much so that the actors slowly fade away, replaced by living, breathing human beings; damnable deviants who should see the error of their ways, but who are too focused on the here-and-now to notice the dark future circling overhead. It's this illusion that proves Scorsese's prowess, it's this rare quality that elevates the Oscar-snubbed drama above its genre brethren. Its characters (yes, even Tommy) aren't just wise-cracking, gun-toting caricatures; its violence doesn't amount to red-spattered schlock; its themes aren't as clear-cut as good vs. evil or brother vs. brother; its scrambling protagonist isn't hailed a hero; and its rata-tat-tat dialogue never rings false. Above all else, Scorsese doesn't settle, doesn't offer footholds where there are none, doesn't skirt any truth or sugarcoat anything that crosses his path. Goodfellas is an exceedingly honest dissection of an exceedingly dishonest lifestyle; a cinematic gut-punch swung by one of Hollywood's finest directors. It is, unequivocally, one of the greatest films of all time.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Video Quality
Don't bother comparing Warner's new 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of Goodfellas to its early-2007 high definition cousin: the two are identical. Baffling as it is, the studio has simply repackaged the same dated, problematic 1080p/VC-1 transfer that left videophiles shrugging their shoulders some three years ago. That's not to say the presentation is completely without merit -- it handily bests each of its previously released DVD counterparts -- but it also lacks the polish and power of lesser catalog titles. Brightly lit shots fare well, as do closeups, but dingy nightclubs, shadowy restaurants, and midnight heists look worse for the wear. Faint compression artifacts, smeared textures, ringing, aliasing, and crush all have their way with the image, limiting the impact of several otherwise staggering scenes. Other anomalies abound as well, regardless of Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus' lighting. Errant print specks, inconsistent contrast leveling, waxy faces, wavering, intermittent edge halos, and other seemingly minor distractions litter the proceedings, wreaking relative havoc on a film that deserves far better. The studio didn't even take the time to eliminate glaring mishaps fans have complained about for years, among them an unsightly vertical line that cuts a swath through De Niro's face around the 1:16:00 mark (see screenshot 11).
That being said, the transfer boasts enough improvements to warrant a purchase, at least for those who don't already own the 2007 Blu-ray release. Compared to the standard DVD, the Blu-ray edition's picture is stronger and more stable (despite some noticeable telecine wobble), delineation is more revealing (overwhelming black levels notwithstanding), and overall clarity is more rewarding (even if only by a moderate margin). For all of its technical woes, there's a lot to be said for the inherent upgrades afforded by a high definition presentation. But would it have looked better had its handlers granted it a proper remaster? Undoubtedly. The fine fellows at Disney recently went back to the drawing board to correct the atrocity that was their first Gangs of New York outing, and the resulting remastered release is well worth the cost of a second admission. Unfortunately, Warner has merely tossed an old disc into a new Digibook; one with a misleading "Anniversary" moniker that will inspire many an uninformed consumer to shell out cash on a release that, unbeknownst to them, is already sitting on their shelves.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Alas, Warner's new 20th Anniversary Edition of Goodfellas doesn't even feature lossless audio. The disc's video transfer is the same, its technical issues are the same, its 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is the same, its limitations are the same... is that a collective sigh I hear? The mix is competent enough I suppose -- dialogue is clean and well-prioritized (albeit a tad muddy on occasion), the LFE channel offers some nice kick (blunt and soupy as it may be when the wiseguy-waters get rough), the rear speakers are fairly active throughout, and directionality and separation are commendable (particularly for a catalog title) -- but the subsequent experience was far more impressive in 2007, before every major and minor studio (minus Warner) began granting every Blu-ray release, even the worst direct-to-video fiascoes and obscure cult classics, a lossless audio track. My apologies if my review is starting to sound more like a rant than an unbiased technical analysis, but the further we drift away from the days of lossy audio, the more infuriating the appearance of a lossy mix becomes. Ah well. Like the studio's video transfer, its Dolby Digital offering shouldn't prevent anyone from owning such a remarkable film, especially when its 640kbps sonics still sound better than they do on DVD. Just beware buying the 20th Anniversary Edition if you already own the 2007 Blu-ray release.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Once again, it's best to ignore the "20th Anniversary Edition" moniker slapped on the new Blu-ray release of Goodfellas. Aside from a feature-length documentary about the golden age of gangster cinema (relegated to a second disc), a small batch of period shorts, and Digibook packaging, its supplemental package is unchanged. However, for the first time, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Blessed with a pair of exceptional audio commentaries -- one with the cast and crew, one with the real Henry Hill and Edward McDonald -- it will continue to provide fans, even the disgruntled among us, a fascinating tour of the production of one of Scorsese's finest.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Not to repeat myself ad nauseum, but be sure to approach the 20th Anniversary Edition of Goodfellas with caution. If you already own the 2007 Blu-ray release, this version offers nothing more than an additional feature-length documentary (about gangster cinema in general, not Goodfellas specifically), a handful of classic animated shorts, and Digibook packaging. Both editions feature the same problematic video transfer, the same standard Dolby Digital audio track, and the same central supplemental package. Don't misunderstand: Scorsese's Henry Hill biopic is, without a doubt, one of the director's best, and deserves a hallowed home on every cinephile's shelves. But anyone who already owns Warner's previous Blu-ray release should steer clear of this thinly veiled double-dip.
GoodFellas: Other Editions
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GoodFellas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• GoodFellas 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Recycles 3-Year-Old Disc - February 1, 2010
Ever since Warner Home Video announced GoodFellas: 20th Anniversary Edition, many enthusiasts expressed their hope that WHV would use this opportunity to improve the audio or the video presentation of this major Martin Scorsese movie. However, site reviewer Kenneth ...
• Warner to Re-release Goodfellas for 20th Anniversary - October 26, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring 'Goodfellas: 20th Anniversary Edition' to Blu-ray on February 16th as a digibook release. Originally released in 2007, this re-release will hopefully add a lossless soundtrack and fix the video error found in ...
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