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Lockdown diaries- Volunteer John’s Film reviews: Goodfellas

During lockdown and while the workshop is closed, we have all been pursuing hobbies and tasks we can do at home. John, a Men in Sheds Bexley volunteer, has been using lockdown to reflect on some of his favourite films.

As a connoisseur of films and music, John has written a very thoughtful review of the 1990 film, ‘Goodfellas’. John’s review can be found below… enjoy!

“Goodfellas is in my opinion one of the best ever gangster films, comparable in terms of overall artistic merit to the first two Godfather films or Sergio Leone’s operatic-in-scale epic Once Upon A Time In America.

But whereas the Godfather films presented the Corleone family saga as a kind of glamorous & seductive soap opera that would become progressively darker in the second movie when the corrupt Michael took over from his father, Goodfellas presents the gangster milieu in no uncertain terms as a fundamentally selfish, crooked & extremely violent enterprise right from the get-go.

Story-wise, it follows the chief protagonist, Henry Hill, from his early days as an errand boy for a branch of the local ‘family’ through his induction proper into the ranks when he refuses to give evidence in court against the local crime boss & through several subsequent decades of life in the mafia.

The film is fascinated with the stifling claustrophobia and dysfunction of this sub-culture from an increasingly drugged out Henry Hill’s creeping paranoia to his wife feeling like a prisoner who can’t escape. In fact, the main couple’s strained & fraught relationship and the sense of unreality & impending sense of doom are conveyed perfectly in the performances. All other performances are great from Robert De Niro playing a kind of charismatic father figure to Henry & especially Joe Pesci, who deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of an especially brutal & psychopathic character.

All through the film Martin Scorsese directs with a furious energy, employing extremely precise & fast-paced editing, powerful set-pieces & a constant music soundtrack that is not used gratuitously, but is there to help the progression of the story through changing times, from early ‘innocent’ rock & roll numbers through soul music right up to new-wave & punk rock towards the end when this particular bastardised version of the American Dream will inevitably go decidedly sour.

The idea of depicting the gangster culture as a microcosm of American Capitalism at it’s most rapacious would be pushed out even further by Scorsese in 1995’s lurid & operatic Casino. That film feels slightly less involving & more abstract though as, unlike Goodfellas, there are absolutely no remotely likeable or relatable characters to root for whereas in this one, I found at least the wife reasonably sympathetic. No, in Casino, every character is completely loathsome. Every single one.

Overall, I’d like to wrap up this venture by proclaiming Goodfellas a kind of acerbic Sex Pistols to The Godfather’s epic but more languorous Pink Floyd, not just one of the greatest gangster films ever made, but one of the greatest films ever made full stop.”

-John, Men in Sheds Bexley Volunteer

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