Written by Joseph Holgate, who you can follow on Twitter at @joerodholgate

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Fresh Perspective, where I’ll be reviewing films I’ve never seen before. After watching Taxi Driver (1976) for a previous entry, I craved for some more Scorsese classics. This week, I snuggled under my duvet, switched Netflix on, and stuck on GoodFellas (1990). It’s hard to believe that this one escaped my radar, as yet again Scorsese’s crime expertise had me glued to my laptop screen.

Fresh Perspective on Female First

Fresh Perspective on Female First

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

With GoodFellas being recognised as one of the greatest gangster films ever, Martin Scorsese’s crime drama follows the rise and fall of mob associate Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, who becomes infatuated with the presence and lifestyle of the Italian Mafia from a young age. He rises up the ranks of the family-orientated structure of the Mob under the guidance of both Robert De Niro’s James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway and Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito.

The perks of working for the Mafia are revealed as Hill engrosses himself with women, drugs and cars. If they wanted something, they took it! However, after many violent and unprecedented acts, the crime syndicate begins to collapse with the catalyst being a variety of things, such as Henry’s infidelity and drug addiction, Jimmy’s unpredictability and Tommy’s gratuitous violence.

Inevitably, friend turns on friend and Henry is forced to rat out Paulie, his caporegime, and Jimmy, after an FBI drug raid leaves him penniless. As a result, he enters witness protection, condemning his former associates to prison. In an almost bittersweet end, Hill is subsequently forced to live out the rest his days as an average Joe, or what he calls “an average nobody” – “a schnook”.

First impressions

The main three actors of the film incredibly compliment Martin Scorsese’s directory prowess. It’s worth noting that Scorsese allowed De Niro, Pesci and Liotta the absolute freedom to improvise and ad lib. He would then transcribe the best parts into a revised script.

If you consider the dialogue where Tommy is toying with Henry during the “How am I funny?” jibe, the improvisation and ability to stay in character and deliver an intimidating and convincing performance demonstrates the professional adeptness of these iconic actors. They really are second to none!

Furthermore, De Niro steered his character, “Jimmy the Gent”, in a fantastically-intriguing route. Every time I saw him on screen, I felt a sense of safety and security. His warmness and ‘family’-devoted tendencies caused me to completely overlook his true nature, a selfishly-frightening, cold-blooded killer. Maybe that’s De Niro’s intention, to be ensnared and then betrayed by his graceful evil.

Scorsese’s cinematographic brilliance is heavily featured in the narration of Henry’s fall from grace. The use of longwinded narrative, freeze frames and quick edits emphasised the rash, reckless and impulsive nature of the gangsters. This is because these cinematic techniques are far from the conventional standard of the majority of films released at the time. This deviation certainly flatters and even enhances Scorsese’s presentation of the Mafia associates. However, it is later in the film, during Henry’s drug fuelled paranoia, where Scorsese’s immense talent can be identified.

Objects and vehicles, such as the spying helicopter, weave in and out of shots in an uncontrolled matter, signifying Henry’s distress and anxiety. The fact that Scorsese was able to project Henry’s feelings onto the audience, just by using the simplest of techniques, is astounding and should be awarded. Oh wait, it was!

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Final thoughts


It’s becoming far too much of a cliché to say how I am absolutely amazed at yet another one of Scorsese’s projects. But here I am again! The gangster grandeur is initially tempting and rewarding for a young Henry Hill but the dangerous and corrupt lifestyle inevitably leads him down a path of paranoid anxiety, culminating into his forced transformation from a feared criminal, into a schnook. A wiseguy no more!

Join me next time as I go for the Scorsese and De Niro hat-trick, with the recently released Netflix original film, The Irishman (2019).

See ya later!