On the eve of the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a small sect of Protestant offshoots in rural western Illinois waged a war of their own against the state government. The conflict was centered around the town of Nauvoo, which had been purchased only years prior, and since had grown to rival the population of Chicago. This group, the Mormons, would begin their exodus and settle in what would become Utah, and surrounding lands. This Mormon Corridor would grow to include Nevada, and become part of wider hopes of a state for the religious group to call their own, free from persecution. However, pioneers quickly arrived to the newly conquered land as well, and put an end to any hope of a state of Deseret. A perfect world spoiled by outsiders who also ironically looked for something good in wide deserts. The film Casino, made almost one hundred years after Nevada put it’s declaration before Congress for statehood, depicts a new wave of greed to visit the American West, this time in the rough gem that is Las Vegas.
Like most Scorsese films, the backdrop focuses on organized crime, and unsurprisingly the characters are from the Italian-American underworld. The story follows a Jewish-American handicapper and his efforts to create a successful casino, a plotline that has been a staple of the “gangster genre” since the release of The Godfather. Based on the true story about actual bookmaker turned casino boss Frank Rosenthal, the film explores the rise and fall of a Las Vegas legend, along with the role of organized crime in developing the city into the Las Vegas of today. Continuously, the dual protagonists, the Jewish Sam Rothstein and the Italian Nicky Santoro, are reminded of the fact they’re only visiting. While they may be trying to squeeze the juice out of Las Vegas, the real importance is back home, where the bosses expect business to run smoothly. It seems like every time another character is introduced, the hope of paradise slips away a little more out of reach for everyone involved, until it comes to the ultimate conclusion.
The setpieces around the film are both beautiful and iconic. With a costume budget allegedly hovering at around a million dollars and the shooting location being in an actual casino, every scene draws you into the immense absurdity of Las Vegas. Shooting locations take you from the wide-open deserts, to the new-money golf courses of the well-off, to the sterility and white walls of what looks like a Kansas City Knights of Columbus hall. This description hasn’t even mentioned any of the gratuitous gang violence or the foul language yet, which will make the lengthy experience both visually appealing, and mentally stimulating.
Go down to the floor and have a drink this week, while you enjoy what a fabulous Collegiate Lenses has to offer.
Casino Drinking Game Rules
Take a drink…
- When a character is killed
- Whenever the late Catherine Scorsese appears onscreen
- If Sam attempts to micromanage
- When some casual antisemitism is thrown around
Take this list as a suggestion, and drink responsibly. As always, enjoy the show.