Posted on 2/11/12 08:32 PM
This is a gangster classic and one of Martin Scorsese's best films. It has terrific acting from everyone involved, especially the three leads, and an excellent script by Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese. It is based on the book Wiseguy, which is based on the true life story of gangster Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in the film. It is perhaps so well made and realistic because Scorsese grew up in Brooklyn and probably even lived around such "wiseguys".
The center of the story is gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who from the time he was a kid, always wanted to be a gangster. He begins hanging around with them at a young age and eventually starts doing little tasks for them. This interferes with his schooling and in turn, angers his abusive father. This pushes Henry even harder into the gangster life, as he graduates to blowing up cars. Fast forward, about 20 years later, Henry is a respected gangster and has nice guy Jimmy Conway (Robert Deniro) and psycho Tommy Devito, (incredibly played by Joe Pesci in an Oscar-winning role), for his friends. Their crimes grow gradually in their magnitude, from robbing millions of dollars from the airline Lufthansa to wacking somebody down in Florida. Tommy doesn't last long; his red-hot temper eventually gets him into trouble when he kills a "made" man just for making fun of him. They bury the body, but Tommy is eventually killed for the crime. Henry Hill meanwhile has gone to prison at Riker's Island, but it was like a vacation for him and he is released soon into the open arms of his friends. Henry and his wife, meanwhile, have gotten deep into drugs and as a result, the police are on their tail. They know it and Jimmy knows it. They become very paranoid and eventually Henry is caught and rats on all his friends so he and his wife can enter the witness protection program. He still remains there today, being hunted by the mob, for doing exactly what he was told not to do: ratting on his friends.
This film has two possible messages; also, since it is a true story, that only strengthens its moral. You can either interpret this film as saying crime doesn't pay or don't rat on your friends. It all depends on your perspective.