Based on a true story, GOODFELLAS tells about the life of a Mafia mobster — his complex relationships, friendships, romances, and criminal dealings. Adopted by neighborhood gangsters at an early age, Henry Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Brooklyn boy, is raised to be a faithful member of their “family”. The gangsters never refer to themselves as gangsters. In Mafia vernacular, insiders are known as either “wiseguys” or “goodfellas.”
Henry, who narrates the film, says things like, “As far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a gangster… it’s better than being President!” From his job at the cab stand parking Cadillacs, he moves on to smuggling and arson, before falling under the tutelage of Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), goodfella extraordinaire.
Jimmy’s words of wisdom to Henry are twofold: “Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.” Over time, Jimmy comes to oversee a multi-million dollar enterprise built upon murder, extortion, blackmail, bookmaking, theft, and hijacking. With an air of nostalgia, Henry narrates: “If we wanted something, we just took it. Anyone complained got hit.”
“The rich have many friends,” says Proverbs 14:20, as the stolen wealth soon leads to favored standing for Henry. Henry takes time out to marry Karen, then its back to the story line of crime and money, money, money, and more money. Not surprisingly, Karen’s behavior degenerates to parallel that of her husband’s.
Henry and Jimmy are caught and sent to jail, but there, too, enjoy wine and fine food. Upon their release four years later, Henry turns to cocaine dealing and gun running while Jimmy plans a $6 million heist. Money is now firmly rooted as their idol and controls their lives.
After the heist, there are close-ups of more murders and graphic executions, as Jimmy cuts every link between himself and the robbery, stashing bodies in garbage trucks and meat freezers. Henry, meanwhile, is surrounded by narcotics agents who persuade him to turn state’s evidence in exchange for protection under the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Unbelievably, that’s where he is today.
Psalms 10, 12 and 14 were written as testimonies concerning the follies of evil men like these. One can therefore be assured that the greedy who seek to glut their unrestrained appetites by victimizing others will one day be called to account by God. As Proverbs 21:7 says, “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right.”
Sadly, Karen at one point flushes $60,000 of cocaine down the toilet before an imminent arrest, causing Henry to shriek, “That’s all we’ve got left!” Having thus come to the end of their rope, how sad that they don’t turn to the One who can lead them out of the hellish pit into which they have fallen. As Psalm 25:3 says, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.”
Director Scorsese seems to be staying in neutral amoral territory with this film. He is not saying that crime pays, neither is he saying that crime doesn’t pay, but, rather that these characters have ended up demonstrating both points of view.
Clocking in at two-and-a-third hours, much of the screen time for GOODFELLAS consists of approximately 340 obscenities and 11 profanities. That’s roughly 2 1/2 occurrences per minute, enough to make you wonder if those vulgarities were actually written into the script, or just ad-libbed by the actors — abhorrent either way.
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Mr. Robert A, Daly
Warner Brothers, Inc.
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Approximately 340 obscenities and 11 profanities; graphic murder, violence and gun whippings; hijacking, smuggling and arson; extortion, blackmail, theft, bookmaking, and gambling; portrayal of police as corrupt; adultery and sexual fondling; substance and alcohol abuse; and, lying and gossip.