When you walk into a casino, you’re greeted with bright lights and music, the sound of coins clinking, and a sense of excitement. The energy is intoxicating – even the most jaded of people are swept up by it all.
But behind the glitz and glamour is an entirely different story. Casinos are businesses, and they are designed to make money – not because of luck but because of a mathematical expectancy that ensures the house always wins. While a lucky patron may win big once in awhile, that player’s winnings will always be offset by the losses of other players.
It’s this worldview that makes Casino such a fascinating movie, especially in the hands of director Martin Scorsese. Following on the heels of Goodfellas, Casino explores the seedy underbelly of gambling while still showing us the opulence, neon signs, and smiling players that define Sin City.
The movie focuses on Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), who considers himself a man of principle. He sees himself as a spokesman for the little guy against the overpowering forces of organized crime and, in one infamous scene, refuses to help FBI agents investigating his mob associates.
But Casino doesn’t paint its characters as heroes or villains – it’s a tale of greed and corruption, with every key character mired in avarice and treachery. This is made clear in some of the film’s more hellacious violence, including a torture-by-vice sequence that features a popped eyeball and a baseball bat beating that had to be trimmed to avoid an NC-17 rating.