Goodfellas (1990)

There are certain films where it doesn’t matter how widely acclaimed as a classic, best film of all time, etc are: you just have no particular inclination to see them. There may or may not be any good reason for this; you may just have seen one too many glowing reviews, you may not care for other work by the people involved, or there may be something entirely irrational involved that defies explanation. When it comes to Goodfellas and me, it was probably a bit of all three, particularly the consideration that I’ve never been a Scorsese fan… but beyond that I seemed to have a special antipathy towards Goodfellas that I don’t understand myself. I mean, I recall one time years ago it was showing on TV and thinking to myself “hmm, suppose I should actually watch that”… sat down to do so, got to the end of the opening bit where they shoot up the guy in the boot of the car, and gave up on the attempt. I really have no idea why. Anyway, as part of the ongoing exchange program with Brendan, I got a loan of it from him and finally watched it today. Now Brendan has a special antipathy towards Ray Liotta that may have coloured my own reception of the film, but I don’t think so. The problem’s not Ray Liotta so much as it is Henry Hill, the character. He’s not actually that interesting, and for the most part Liotta doesn’t make him so; he never looks entirely a part of the crowd he runs with somehow, and I know that’s partly the point (he makes it explicit later in the film how he will never be a “made man” because he’s not 100% Italian, he will always be something of an outsider), but it’s distracting. I was surprised by how secondary Robert De Niro was in the film, and his character was far more interesting, responsible for the 1978 Lufthansa heist. Frankly I’d much rather have seen a film about him than Henry Hill.

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