Casino is a film starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone that was released in 1995. It was based on the nonfiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also collaborated on the film with director Martin Scorsese. This film was the eighth collaboration between Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese.
The film follows the character Sam “Ace” Rothstein, played by Robert De Niro, as he travels to Las Vegas at the request of the Italian mob to oversee operations at the Tangiers Casino. Sam is a top gambling handicapper. Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, is also sent to Vegas by the mob to ensure that the money from Tangiers is skimmed off the top and that the other mobsters in Vegas are following orders. Ginger McKenna, played by Sharon Stone, is the wife of Sam, and is a scheming, self-absorbed woman who ends up as an alcoholic.
When Sam initially moves to Las Vegas and takes charge of the Tangiers, he is largely successful in his attempts at making the place profitable, with legions of players wasting incredible amounts of cash on slots machines, also helping the mob to skim the tops of these profits. Sam is able to do this despite his gaming license never fully coming through. He is eventually joined by his childhood friend Nicky, who is sent by the mob as a sort of protector and enforcer for the casino. While in Vegas, Sam meets and marries Ginger, whom he knows is not completely trustworthy, but with whom he falls and love and wants to share his life.
Things begin unraveling for Sam because of Nicky’s volatile temper and Ginger’s scheming and self-interest. Nicky gets banned from every casino in Vegas due to his temper, and as a result forms his own crew and begins organising his own shakedowns and burglaries. Ginger has a daughter with Sam, but has a hard time cutting ties with her former boyfriend, Lester. Lester gets caught conning Ginger out of money, and Sam and Nicky order him severely beaten. After this, Ginger ends up turning to alcohol and quickly begins spiralling out of control. Sam blames Nicky’s temper for the difficulties he’s having in obtaining his gambling license, and orders Nicky to leave Vegas, leading to the two of them having a huge fight.
Things continue to spiral out of control for Sam worse and worse due to Ginger and Nicky and their behaviour. Eventually, Ginger dies of a cocaine overdose, and Nicky and his brother are both killed by the mob bosses, who have had enough of their behaviour. Sam survives a car explosion. The film ends with Sam narrating and telling how the Tangier and other similar “old” casinos were all demolished to make way for bigger, more modern casinos and hotels. He ends by saying that he was able to go back to his original career of being a sports handicapper for the mob.
The real life events that the book was written about and that the movie was based on happened fairly close to how they were portrayed in the book. The “real” Sam was named Frank Rosenthal, the real Nicky was Anthony Spilotoro, and the real Ginger was Geraldine McGee Rosenthal. Many of the details in the movie happened in real life, including security crushing the hands of people caught cheating in the casino, lion performers (actually Siegfried and Roy in real life) performing at the casino, Nicky getting banned from every casino in Vegas, and even the car bomb that almost killed Sam. The real Ginger even died of a drug overdose, and the real Nicky and his brother were beaten to death, though the actual events did not transpire in a cornfield as it was portrayed in the movie.
Casino was met with positive critical success and was also a box office success, making $116 million worldwide on a $40-$50 million budget. One of the main criticisms of the film is that it contains excessive violence and vulgar language. The film was nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Actress, with Sharon Stone winning the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a motion Picture – Drama, for her portrayal of Ginger. Stone was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role of Ginger, as well.
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