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Goodfellas Reviews

Based on journalist Nicholas Pileggi's nonfiction book Wiseguy, GOODFELLAS revolves around the career of low-level gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who became part of the federal witness protection program after testifying against his erstwhile partners in crime. At the center of the book is Hill's insider account of the $6 million robbery of a Lufthansa cargo facility at New York's Idlewild Airport. Scorsese doesn't show the heist itself; instead, he focuses on its bloody aftermath, in which all the participants are brutally murdered by Henry's partners, the lethally paranoid Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and the psychotic Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci). Generally, GOODFELLAS is concerned with Tommy and Jimmy's climb up the mob ladder and its effects on Henry, but Scorsese's rich tapestry is both broader in scope and more detailed than a mere recounting of the events in the trio's life of crime. Because Scorsese is equally concerned with the minutiae of his main characters' world and with the grand design that appears to underlie that world, the downfall of Henry and his associates seems fated. Many of the seemingly peripheral subplots are showstoppers. Focusing on the one-woman war Henry's wife Karen (wonderfully played by Lorraine Bracco) fights against his mistress, Scorsese casts Henry's homelife as a raucous parody of the domineering husbands and quiet wives of THE GODFATHER. Karen, so fiercely self-possessed early in the film, is cowed and exhausted by the movie's hellish climax, during which Henry has gone from a trim mob dandy to a coked-up, misshapen mess. His subsequent arrest and induction into the witness protection program leads to the film's final, and most disturbing image--a suburbanized Henry appearing at the front door of his new tract home to bring in the morning paper.