After already standing 2 hours with Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, I decided I'd just get the 3 more hours of him out of the way with Casino.
The first hour, kind of like Goodfellas, is a lot of fun to watch. We hear through narration and quick shots how everyone got into the casino buisness, how the money got to the men on top, how the Tangiers functioned. Unfortunately, there's about 2 more hours of stuff to get through. This movie is way too much of a biopic (it's based on a book that's based on real events) for it to really be a solid piece of cinema. The problem with a film trying to be epic is that it's a short story format. You can have a fun ride with a film, but you're never going to get the characterization or emotional ties that a novel or television show has because of the length.
Even at 3 hours, Casino can't decide what it is. The quick pace at the beginning makes it seem like it will be a fast paced overview of a man's journey in Vegas. Unfortunately, as the pacing slows, scenes are drawn out, and as the narration drops out more and more, the film becomes tedious. Pretty soon people aren't saying anything to each other but f-bombs. People are drunk, high, sleeping together, tying up children. I honestly just started doing other things. I knit about a third of a scarf. I knit a scarf while watching Casino.
I just find biopics boring. I don't care what anyone says, Ray, Walk the Line, My Left Food, Out of Africa, Goodfellas--they're just not that good. Sure the acting is good--a biopic is nothing if not an excuse for an actor to go all out and impersonate someone--but the problem with actually adapting someone's life to film is that you can't make a clean story arc or character arc. You're forced to adapt events to what really happens. And even when a film plays around with events to create an arc, it's still not a streamlined story because you have to cram in so much. I'd rather have somebody just tell me the highlights (like Casino does at the beginning) or dwell on certain events. Probably the most interesting biopic I've seen is Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. It's not a favorite, but at least it acknowldeges that the audience is just getting a mosaic of person's life whether or not it's shown in a linear fashion, and so we share in 32 events/habits that define the man.
Really, this is just to say that Casino started out fun and interesting, but got progressively more boring as the movie went on. I just wish the movie would have stayed as fun as it was in the beginning. But good old Marty Scorsese wins you over at the very end with an ending de Niro narration of what happened to Vegas after the fall out (story time again!) and a return to the epic choral music that began the whole film. I'll give Scorsese this: he sure knows how to pick good music and begin and end a movie.