Director: Martin Scorsese, 1995 (R)
The movie opens up with a car bombing. Violence erupts and a body goes flying. The tone is set for the next three hours. And with it the over 400 cussings (or more than two per minute), which is an awful lot of f-bombs.
Scorsese bases his film on a true-life book detailing the history of the Stardust Casino, although here it is called the Tangiers Casino. He tells the rags-to-riches story of Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a mobs odds-maker who is sent from New York to Las Vegas to run a casino, and his best friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) whose muscle and fearlessness make him the real ruler of sin city. The glamor and glitz of the high life in the bright lights contrasts starkly with the savage and brutal underbelly of the city where everyone has a hand in the game, from the valet parkers to the gaming commissioners whose relatives get job security.
Along the way Ace meets Ginger (Sharon Stone), a working girl hustler who has a soft-spot for a low-life pimp (James Woods). Stone earned an Oscar nomination as Best Actress, but she seems to be playing a woman acting a role. Her affections towards Ace appear superficial, but perhaps that's the point.
The opening lines present the theme of the movie, apart that is from greed, deception and violence: "When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point?" Trust (or lack of it) underscores all that happens. Several times Ace asks Ginger, "Can I trust you?" He recognizes that she does not love him, and accepts that. But trust is the non-negotiable here. Surprisingly paradoxical, since it it missing from everyone present. As Ace says,
In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit bosses are watching the floor men. The shift bosses are watching the pit bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift bosses. I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.Trust remains central to the human condition. Without it, we cannot sustain relationships. Apart from relationships we live alone and lonely, isolated from our fellow beings. The Bible says, "Those who trust in themselves are fools" (Psa. 28:26). But it also says, "Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils" (Isa. 2:22). Humanity cannot be trusted. Our best friends will let us down. Even our spouses will disappoint us. But God will not. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov. 3:5). We must balance total trust and dependence in God with realistic trust in people. Only in this way will we avoid the pitfalls of relational devastation or paranoid isolation that bring despair and desperation.
Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs