Director Martin Scorsese’s gripping film GoodFellas, which the late film critic Roger Ebert called “the best mob movie ever,” is 25 years young this year. To celebrate, much of the cast reunited at the Tribeca Film Festival and this coming Tuesday (May 5) an all-new remastered Blu-ray edition will be available. This new release includes an all-new documentary, two commentaries, three featurettes and a 36-page photo book. But this is not just another Blu-ray as Scorsese himself was deeply involved with the film’s remastering process and his high standards are evident throughout.
At the recent Tribeca Film Festival, this new remastered version was screened while most of the main cast reunited as well—with the exception of Joe Pesci and Scorsese—even making an appearance on the Today Show this past Tuesday.
For the uninitiated, GoodFellas explores the criminal life like no other movie before or since. Following the rise and fall of a trio of gangsters over 30 years, it’s an electrifying, fact-inspired tale of living—and dying. Based on the true-life bestseller Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi (who, in collaboration with Scorsese, received an Oscar nomination for the script), GoodFellas follows the true story of Henry Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Brooklyn kid who is adopted by neighborhood gangsters at an early age and climbs the ranks of a Mafia family that includes stellar performances from Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.
The film earned six Academy Award nominations in all, including “Best Picture” and “Best Director,” along with “Best Supporting Actress” (for Bracco) and a “Best Supporting Actor” win for Pesci. At the time of its release in 1990, it was also named “Best Film” by the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics. In 2000, GoodFellas was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress.
There’s not a whole lot of downtime in GoodFellas. From the opening voiceover, when Liotta, as Henry Hill, says, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” Scorsese puts his foot on the gas and doesn’t feel the need to stop for many red lights. The violence is unbridled and matter-of-fact, the humor is darkly contagious, and the language is coarse (the f-word ringing out an estimated 300 times in 146 minutes, mostly from the lips of Pesci’s psycho-killer character), but chances are that you’ll not be able to turn away from the screen or bother to cover your ears in horror.
That’s what makes GoodFellas the classic that it is. Despite everything that may be abhorrent to you personally about these characters and their lifestyle, you go along for the ride anyway. And therein lies the fascination behind great filmmaking, where a movie like GoodFellas can somehow take you into a world—in this case a very dark one—that you’d never walk into on your own, but when it’s all over you will feel that you have. It’s little wonder that David Chase, the creator of the massively successful and landmark HBO series The Sopranos, has stated that “GoodFellas is the Koran for me.”