Robert De Niro
All fair credit is due to the masterful direction of Martin Scorsese and the overwhelmingly entertaining screenplay by author Nick Pileggi, but Casino really is an "actor's movie." De Niro is at the absolute top of his game playing gambling genius Ace Rothstein, Joe Pesci is at his slickest and most dangerous, and Sharon Stone is on hand to deliver what's easily the finest performance of her career. And let's not forget James Woods, Kevin Pollak, Alan King, and Frank Vincent, all of whom deliver small yet resoundingly memorable supporting performances. (Plus, any movie that gives John Bloom (a.k.a. Joe Bob Briggs) such a meaty role is one fun flick!)
Behind the scenes, Casino is like an all-star game of Scorsese regulars. Production designer Dante Ferretti and editor Thelma Schoonmaker help to create a 1970's Las Vegas that all but oozes off your screen, and while Casino marks the first time that Scorsese would work with stellar cinematographer Ralph Richardson -- it would not be the last.
Casino seems to have earned the unfair designation of Goodfellas' younger, skinnier, and slightly less handsome step-brother, and I think that's a fairly unjust comparison. Sure, they're fairly similar on the surface and they seem to maintain many of the same themes and attitudes ... but very few movies can even come close to approaching the Goodfellas stamp of excellence. And yet Casino manages to come pretty damn close. Scorsese and Pileggi might be traveling over similar ground here, but they do it so well and so entertainingly, I doubt that any of their fans really mind.
Flip the disc over for a rather generous parcel of extra features. But c'mon; why not just bite the bullet, Universal, and give us a 2-disc set?
Four featurettes open the treasure chest, and several cast & crew members are on hand to give you the straight scoop on Casino: writer/director Martin Scorsese, co-writer Nicholas Pileggi, actress Sharon Stone, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, production designer Dante Ferretti, and quite a few others. (Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro participate by way of interview segments recorded for Casino's original release.)
Casino: The Story is an 8-minute featurette in which Scorsese and Pileggi explain how they were able to convince the "real" Ace Rothstein into letting them make the movie. The author also explains how difficult it is to write a screenplay and a novel at the same time, especially when the book has to be finished first!
Casino: The Cast and the Characters is a 20-minute piece that focuses on the onscreen talent. Much of the attention is paid to De Niro, Stone, and Pesci -- but there's also some spotlights thrown towards the phenomenal supporting cast, most notably James Woods, Alan King, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollak, LQ Jones, and Don Rickles.
Casino: The Look runs about 17 minutes and features all sorts of insights and anecdotes regarding Casino's production design, costumes, and cinematography.
Casino: After the Filming is a rather cool 9-minute discussion of the film's editorial process, the music, the opening credits sequence by Saul Bass, the theatrical release, and of course Sharon Stone's Oscar nomination.
Vegas and the Mob is a 14-minute featurette produced by NBC News that offers a brief history of how organized crime "built" Las Vegas -- before Hugh Hefner and the big-money corporations swarmed in and bought everything up. It's an interesting little piece, but there seems to be a little bit too much "hero worship" afforded to some guys who were pretty cruel bastards.
Originally produced for The History Channel, History Alive: True Crime Authors - Casino with Nicholas Pileggi runs 41 minutes, and tells (pretty much) the exact same story as Scorsese's movie -- only with some really cheesy re-enactment material. Mr. Pileggi divulges a few fascinating tidbits that aren't found in the film, plus the original Ace Rothstein (actually known as Frank Rosenthal) is brought to life with some old-school interview segments.
There's a 3-minute reel of deleted scenes (which actually play better as outtakes!) and a collection of textual production notes.