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Film: Casino
We just run a small, legitimate business, here.

"No one stays at the top forever."

Casino is a 1995 film directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, who earned a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for her role as Ginger.

Until the early 1980s, The Mafia had a huge stake in Las Vegas. But while they ran the casinos, they didn't run the town. They had to use fronts to get their men in to run everything. One of these fronts is Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro), a Jewish gambling prodigy who, having made big money for his Mafia associates in the past, is sent to Vegas to run the Tangiers casino-hotel. Rothstein, a ruthlessly logical and efficient character, soon turns the Tangiers into a successful and profitable organisation for the Mob bosses, but things start go shaky when Rothstein falls head-over-heels in love with Ginger (Stone), a beautiful and seductive but manipulative and troubled casino hustler, and when Rothstein's old friend Nicky Santoro (Pesci) arrives in town. Santoro, a psychotically hot-headed mobster, is sent by the bosses to watch over things and make sure no one interfere with Rothstein's operation, but soon decides to make Las Vegas his personal kingdom, bringing much undesired attention on Rothstein himself and creating tension between the two men that will end up bringing the whole thing crashing down on top of them.

The film is loosely based on the story of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, who unofficially ran three casinos for the bosses in Chicago and who served as the inspiration for the Rothstein character. Although the film isn't an exact account of what happened (a lot of that is Artistic License), it does provide a good overview of it.

It also got a lot of criticism for being, basically, Goodfellas IN VEGAS!, largely due to Martin Scorsese directing it the same way, Nicholas Pileggi adapting again one of his books, and for some characters having a really close resemblance to similar characters in the last movie - though, in that respect, both men Pesci played really existed, and both acted pretty much like they do in both movies. Being both significantly longer and more slowly paced didn't help either.

Nicholas Pileggi explained in interviews that Casino was deliberately meant as a continuation of not only Goodfellas but also Mean Streets together they cover the Myth Arc of the mob reach and influence in America with Serial Escalation since Mean Streets shows the very bottom, small-time hoods, Goodfellas shows the middle-class Stepford Suburbia gangsters with Casino showing the very high rollers of the mob, at the top level and indeed the source of their economy.

This film provided examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Amy is tied to the bed while she's asleep and left alone in the house by Ginger when her so called mother wants to go on an escapade with her lover.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: For a few minutes, the film gives Frank narration duties.
  • And That's Terrible: The ending states that the removal of the mob influence/the corporations taking over the casinos in Vegas as a bad thing; since (endless cycles of violent murder non-withstanding), the mob cared about the people who visited Vegas while the corporations only want the money of the tourists and are impersonal as hell.
  • At Least I Admit It: Nicky's attitude stems from the fact that he's being looked down for being a brutal murderous thug by the other mob bosses and by Ace when his murders and street crime represents the reality of their enterprise far more than their middle-class pretensions.
  • Ax-Crazy: Nicky. As with Tommy DeVito, he was disturbingly based on a real person.
  • Badass Decay: Justified and discussed In-Universe. As Nicky gets older and more into drugs he begins to lose his edge, and Ace even remarks at one point that it took Nicky three punches to knock somebody out; when he was young and clean, it would have only taken one.
  • Badass Grandpa: The professional killers who retire any potential liability during the ending are well past their physical prime -probably in their late sixties- but get the job done to a T.
  • Bad Boss: All the mob bosses end up being this, killing anyone and everyone who could possibly link them to skimming the casino; even guys they liked.
  • Bang Bang BANG: Mostly averted with pistols which sound like their real life counterparts. At least one scene with sustained sub-machinegun fire plays it straight, however.
  • Based on a True Story: The story takes a few liberties, of course. For example, Artie didn't die of a heart attack while being arrested.
  • Big Fancy House: The Rothstein's.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the film, most of the major characters are dead one way or the other. Ace manages to survive, but is forced to return to California after getting blacklisted from Vegas.
  • Black and Grey Morality: And how. Sam even warns Nicky the cops aren't afraid to bury people in the desert.
    • Sam's in the pocket of the mob and not above using a little mafia muscle to get the job done... the corrupt politicians that screw him over still manage to come off as sleazier and less ethical.
  • Black Comedy: What humour there is in the film is very dark.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to Good Fellas, this film film is much more bloody.
  • Book Ends:
    • Ace ends the movie right back where he started.
    • Nicky starts the movie talking about "problems" winding up vanishing into holes. In his last scene Nicky, who had become a problem at that point, gets dropped into one.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Nicky is a violent psychopath and largely autonomous, but the bosses put up with him because he's a good earner and functionally loyal. He accomplishes their assigned errands to a T. and regularly kicks up envelopes full of money, but as the envelopes grow thinner and his mischiefs more blatant, Marino begins to wonder if he's going be greeted or whacked on arrival when delivering them. Nicky is also an accomplished thief who, for some reason, dislikes being "watched" by the people he robs so he turns their pictures around.
  • Buried Alive: The Santoro brothers at the end.
  • The Cameo: Frankie Avalon, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Jerry Vale, and future Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
  • The Casino: Sam's hired to manage one.
  • The Cast Showoff: Lefty Rosenthal may not be able to juggle, but Robert De Niro can!
  • Cluster F-Bomb: As of 2013, it ranks fifth in most F-Bombs. You may count it as fourth, since the current champion, dropping 857 F-Bombs at a rate of 9.52 FPM, is a documentary about the word. Also, The Other Wiki doesn't count pornographic or foreign-speaking titles for the list, which may or may not drop it down even further.
  • Consummate Professional: The reason Ace gets promoted to manager; he is a money machine that "sleeps and breaths gambling", works 18 hours a day and cannot abide sub-par competence. He has an attention to details big and small, culminating in him noticing that the blueberry muffins have a random scattered amount of blueberries and so he marches straight to the kitchen:
    "I want an equal number of blueberries in each muffin, I don't care how long it takes."
  • Cool Car: No matter what year it currently is over the course of the film, Sam will be driving a period-correct Cadillac Eldorado. A car that perfectly reflects the opulent, flashy gaudiness of Sam's surroundings and the life he leads within them.
  • Corrupt Hick: Ace narrates that the whole state of Nevada runs on nepotism and corrupt hicks.
  • Corrupt Politician: The chairmen of the Gaming Control Board investigation, including a Commisioner and a Senator who enjoys free VIP treatment in the Casino but starts clashing with Sam after a nepotism issue.
  • Costume Porn: All the fancy clothes of course.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Ace gets his check. Anywhere in the country he is a bookie and a felon, but in Las Vegas gambling is legal and his skills promote him to a successful entrepreneur.
    Nicky: This is the only place in the country where a bookie joint is legit. So what did Ace do? He took the bookie joints off the streets and then opened them up inside the casino!
  • Darker and Edgier: Casino is far more violent and downbeat than Goodfellas. The film has almost no lighter moments, and its killings are far more stomach churning.
  • Death by Adaptation: Piscano didn't die of a heart attack during the FBI questioning.
  • Death by Irony/Mythology Gag: Pesci's character is beaten to death by Frank Vincent, an actor Pesci had either viciously beaten or killed in two previous movies.
  • Death Montage: One closes most of the narrative; a great number of characters get taken care of to the music of The House of the Rising Sun.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts:
    • No one thing brings the Casino down. It's a lot of little things that come together (Ace's License, Nicky's antics, the wire in the produce store...), which is what usually happened to the mafia in real life.
    • Inverted with Ace's car bomb. A variety of contributing factors conspire to spare his life.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: In his "The Reason You Suck" Speech in the middle of a desert, Nicky Santoro yells at Ace and accuses him, not without justification of having this. He's a front man for the mafia but puts on airs and thinks getting invited to country club is a sign of legitimacy when he represents the reality of their work.
  • Determinator: Nicky.
    Ace: No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead.
    • According to Nicky himself:
      Nicky: I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and... walk in and see and, uh... if you don't have my money for me, I'll... crack your fuckin' head wide-open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your fuckin' head open again. 'Cause I'm fuckin' stupid. I don't give a fuck about jail. That's my business. That's what I do.
      • Ace himself. It becomes his Fatal Flaw when it comes to dealing with Ward.
  • Disaster Dominoes: "The Feds had all the pieces they needed. Everybody began to tumble, one after the other, like dominoes: Between Piscano complaining on the wire, between Nicky, Ginger, me and my license... We managed to really fuck it all up"
  • Disposing of a Body:
    • Nicky gives a very insightful lecture on the subject
    Sam It's in the desert where lots of the town's problems are solved.
    Nicky Got a lot of holes in the desert... and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. Except you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half hour or 45 minutes of diggin'. And who knows who`s gonna be comin' along in that time? Before you know it, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night.
    • In the end, Nicky provides a graphical self-demonstration too, with a slight variation by being set in an Indiana cornfield.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Nicky repeatedly stabs a guy in the neck with his own pen after the guy tells Ace to 'shove it up his ass' when Ace politely tries to return it to him. Horrific enough by itself, but keep in mind that Nicky is not even responding to an insult directed at him.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Basically how Ace gets Ginger to marry him.
  • The Ditz:
    • Ward, who happens to be the cousin of a Commisioner and has a job in the casino because of that ...for a while.
    • Piscano, this guy can fuck up a cup of coffee.. He gets a literal death by stupidity
  • Do You Trust Me?:
    • Sam opens an account to his wife and gets asked by a surprised bank manager if he trust his wife, as his deed is very rare in a client.
    • Reversed later when Ace asks Ginger, several times "Can I trust you?" . She says yes, but she is lying.
  • The Dreaded: Nicky to other wiseguys. His very presence is enough to frighten two member of another crew from Sam's casino.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Both Nicky and Ginger suffer hard for their drug use.
  • End of an Age: The end of the film showcases the transition of ownership of Las Vegas from the mob bosses to the corporations. Sam makes clear his disgust of the new Las Vegas, which caters to families instead of gamblers.
    Sam: The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today, it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it's like checkin' into an airport. And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it's all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds.
    • It was also the end for the Mob or the Italian American Mafia's hold on American society.
    "It should have been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were ever given anything that fuckin' valuable again."
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • For a psychotically violent mobster who reacts to any minor slight, real or imagined, with disproportionate violence, Nicky sure has a lot of standards.
      • He reacts very angrily when Ginger flippantly asks him to get someone to kill Ace; while relations between the two are at a low and he's been considering it himself, the guy was still like a brother to Nicky so he's not going to do it without a lot of thought. It's implied that the car bomb Ace barely survives was a parting gift from Nicky, though, and that he eventually made his mind up.
      • Nicky also expresses disgust over "degenerate gamblers". In particular, he chews into one who's let his gambling addiction leave his family broke and unable to pay the bills.
      • Again with Nicky: when Ginger says that if she'd taken her and Ace's daughter, Ace would have hunted her down and killed her, Nicky corrects her by saying he would have. "You don't take a man's kid."
      • Nicky would drop whatever he was doing at 6:30am to go home and cook breakfast for his son and is generally shown to be a very devoted father.
      • And again, when a rival gang of mobsters shoot up one of his restaurants, killing not only some of his men but an innocent waitress who wasn't even supposed to be working that night, Nicky pulls out all the stops to find the perpetrators. And by 'all the stops' we mean 'sticks a guy's head in a vice'.
      • In a less-murderous example, he's also mortified when he learns that the reason one of his men got kicked out of the casino by Ace's guys was because he was rude, obnoxious and put his feet up on the table. He ends up hitting the guy with a telephone receiver (hey, we said 'less-murderous', not 'completely without violence'):
        Nicky: You took your boots off? You put your feet on the table... you shit-kicking, stinky, horse-manure-smelling motherfucker you! You fuck me up over there, I'll stick you in a hole in the fucking desert! You understand? Go over there and apologise.
    • The 'old-timers' capos "don't like any fucking around with the other guys` wives".
    • Ace is disgusted with the modern Las Vegas of Theme Park casinos which attract families to invest in their kids college fund when before it was the province of professional gamblers who knew what they were doing and what the stakes were, and is pretty disappointed with the lousy service and poor standards of hospitality.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change:
    • Ginger's transition from high class hustler to drug addict is marked by her trading in her long hair for an 80s mop.
    • A minor one to showcase the passage of time; Nicky develops a Skunk Stripe as he ages.
  • Everybody Smokes / Smoking Is Cool
  • Eye Scream: The scene with the vise.
  • Facial Horror: There isn't much left of Nicky's face when he and his brother are buried alive. The fact that he's still breathing as the dirt is being poured on him is even more disconcerting than if he was already dead.
  • Fan Disservice: The intimate scenes between Nicky and Ginger are clearly not meant to be hot.
  • Fanservice Extra: The senator's hooker, who we watch slip out of her gown in the senator's hotel room. She's Going Commando.
  • FBI Agent: Nicky and Sam are under constant surveillance, but the agents don't make a lot of progress. The real bosses are hundreds of miles away, and the Vegas staff go to great lengths to outwit the FBI. At one point, while surveying from a small plane, they run out of gas and have to land on the golf course behind Sam's house.
  • Fingore: Don't. Cheat. The. Casino.
  • Fixing The Game: The titular casino encounters the occasional cheater. It doesn't end well.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • The carbomb that hits Ace at the start of the film makes it look like Ace is narrating posthumously. The trope is subverted after Ace survives.
    • Two lines in the very beginning of the movie tell you how it's going to end.
    "...it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were ever given anything that fuckin' valuable again."
    "But in the end, we fucked it all up."
  • Foreshadowing: Piscano's mother telling his son he'll have a heart attack if he doesn't relax.
    • Nicky pointing out that Sam keeping the head boss happy with money was the greatest insurance policy in the world. It's the reason the bosses don't have Sam killed in the end, and the car bombing attempt turned out to be an unauthorized hit by Nicky himself.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • Nicky has a polite conversation with a local police who doubles as his son's baseball coach.
    • Ace obviously maintains a very genial and friendly relationship with the cops right up to the very end (which was Truth in Television for his real-life counterpart).
  • Funny Background Event: When Ginger is talking on the phone to Sam, Amy can be seen poking and annoying Lester and him impotently threatening her.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Nicky knows very well how to counter Federal surveillance.
    • While he's nervously waiting for his meeting with Nicky in the desert, Ace makes a point of looking for any freshly dug holes nearby.
  • Gilligan Cut: "Whatever [new job] he gets, make sure it's quiet." Cue Ace hosting a flamboyant television show "Aces High!!!", with "Also Sprach Zarathustra" cued up.
  • Glory Days: Especially the ending with Ace lamenting what Vegas used to be.
  • Going Commando: The senator's hooker.
  • Gold Digger: Ginger is an obvious, unapologetic one. Sam discusses the trope and thinks he can defy it and change her. He fails.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Nicky Santoro's spectacular temper is a fatal liability which is pivotal to the plot.
  • Hammerspace Hair: Nicky's wife hides a bunch of stolen diamonds in her mop to sneak it through the airport.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Ace is certainly no hero but he is portrayed as a doting husband who only makes his wife wear a beeper after she tries to run off with their daughter. His real life inspiration Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal actually brutally beat his wife, openly cheated on her and humiliated her by buying other women more expensive gifts than her, yet was enough of a hypocrite to make her carry around a beeper so he knew where she was all the times.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Geri McGee Rosenthal, the real life inspiration for Ginger was a chip hustler and was no saint, but in real life she used her money from hustling to support her sick mother, her sister's family and her first daughter with the real life Lester Diamond. She was known for her generosity, people in Vegas rave about what a great person she was, and she was considered a loving mom, so her breakdown was due to the abuse from Lefty. The story about her tying her child to the bed game is not disproven, but so far has just Lefty's word for it.
  • Hollywood History:
    • For one thing, a lot what happened in the film actually happened outside of Vegas. Given that the film is named Casino and plays the Vegas aesthetic for all it's worth, it's understandable that the filmmakers wanted to keep the action around there. And the movie does allude to things happening elsewhere, such as the mob bosses based in Kansas City.
    • Nicky's death was an unintentional example. It was unknown how it really happened during production so the movie simply shows the best theory/rumor of what happened. Ironically, in Real Life, the person that inspired Nicky died very similarly to how Pesci's previous role of Tommy died in Goodfellas
    • The late Frank Rosenthal, the real-life inspiration for Ace, made it clear on his website that he definitely never tried to juggle on his talk show.
  • Hookers and Blow
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Sam's car blowing up and he narrates the rest of the film.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • At one point during an argument, Nicky brings up how Ace got a bunch of guys to beat up Ginger's old boyfriend and how Nicky had had to comfort her following this, and how Ace was a jerk for doing this. Ace angrily points out that he conveniently appears to have left out his own role in this matter, since they were Nicky's guys.
    • The mob bosses get outraged over the idea that some is skimming off the top of the money that they are skimming off the top of the profits of the casino — essentially, that someone is daring to steal the money that they are stealing from someone else. Although told that this is just part of the business ("If you hire a guy to steal for you, he's gonna steal a little for himself"), their anger and greed ends up partially triggering the downfall of everyone.
  • Idiot Ball: Piscano keeps immensely detailed ledgers of every single illegal transaction that occurs in his house, thus enabling the feds to build a watertight case against him and his associates. The narrators lampshade how incredibly dumb this is.
  • Irony:
    • Phillip Green, the man the mobsters arranged to be their 'squeaky clean' front man, turns out to be a crook who cheated his partner in a real estate deal, thus bringing a lot of unwanted police attention on them.
    • Everybody is punished by his own sins, in conformity to Hollywood morality and Scorsese's Christian upbringing, except... the Mafia Godfathers themselves.
    • For all the illegal and immoral activities going on in Las Vegas and inside the Tangiers, it's ultimately only when Sam does something he is entirely justified and right in doing — firing a stupid, useless employee who doesn't know what he's doing — that things start to fall apart. Then again, Sam always stayed "non-political" and never knew too much about the Mafia's operations.
  • Jerkass: One should not expect to encounter gentlemen in a film about career criminals. Varying cases can be made for most of the cast, with some characters standing out as sociopaths. Ace is a complex example who has genuine Affably Evil moments.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The mob bosses, since everybody else pretty much ends up dead, and there's a good chance they won't be going to jail anyways.
    • Ace got off pretty easy when compared to Nicky and the others who meet with unfortunate consequences. His sins were much lesser than most of these to begin with and it gets explained because he still is a very good earner.
    • Frank Marino is likely promoted to Nicky's position at the end despite being his right-hand in many transgressions and fooled the bosses with some lies.
    • Phillip Green, aside from getting questioned over extortion and the murder of his "partner", seems to get away with merely being bought out by corporations as he's rarely mentioned after halfway through.
    • The various corrupt politicians (who were both in bed with the mob as well as accepting Ace's generosity before screwing him over and decrying him as unfit to uphold the honor of Las Vegas). The unnamed senator's real-life counterpart Harry Reid is still a senator.
  • Karmic Death: Nicky, viciously beaten along with his brother and dumped into a hole alive, and Ginger, who's possibly murdered via deliberate drug overdose.
  • Kavorka Man:
    • Nicky can get practically any woman he wants, despite being short, fat and far from conventionally attractive. Being one of the most powerful mobsters in Vegas has its advantages.
  • Kill Them All :
    • At the end, the bosses are facing charges so everyone connected to the skimming operation is taken care of. Some bosses would rather spare a few, such as Stone whom the mafioso's call "a fuckin' Marine" in terms of being able to remain quiet, but as Remo puts it "why take a chance?".
    • Ginger's and Nicky's life mistakes catch up to them, and Piscano dies of a Heart attack on the spot. Only Ace survives because he is a big earner, too valuable to waste.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club:
    • Nicky, the number one jewel thief of the town opens a jewelry called "The Gold Rush" as a front. It gets bugged pretty quickly.
      • His restaurant The Leaning Tower probably fits better, as Ace notes that it's frequented by numerous celebrities and important figures, many of whom are eager for the chance to rub elbows with a "legitimate businessman" like Nicky.
    • It's written on the wall that The Tangiers is mob controlled, the local authorities happily tolerate it as long as the managers stay in line and play ball.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: When Ginger goes off the deep end Billy Sherbert shows up at Sam's place with a shotgun.
  • Loophole Abuse: Ace's criminal record makes him inelegible for a gambling license, but the only thing he has to do is to apply for one. The state law says that he can work in a casino while the application is being processed, so after a while he changes his nominal job; rinse and repeat. Since his corporation is pouring a lot of money into Las Vegas the authorities have no reason to be inquisitive or do things by the book ... Sam gives them reasons later, though.
  • Love at First Sight: Sam falls for Ginger on the spot, when she is throwing away the winnings of other guy, no less.
  • The Mafia: Nicky and all the people Nicky and Sam report to. Notably, the main character, Sam "Ace" Rothstein, isn't a "made man" (formal member) and, being Jewish, isn't even eligible.
  • Make an Example of Them:
    • Discussed by Sam when he orders the physical punishment of a cheater with a hammer. Ace is rather lenient with his other accomplice, letting him choose between the money plus the hammer or just walking out, a subverted Sadistic Choice if Sam meant to be true to his word. The first cheater is threatened with a saw but ends up 'only' with a 'hammered' hand.
    • Remo instructs Nicky to pull no punches to enforce te trope after a mob bar is assaulted. The offender was the vise-guy ...
    • The reason why the Santoro brothers are buried alive.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • Multiple levels of this. Green is the official head of the Tangiers Corporation, but he takes orders from Andy Stone, the head of the Teamsters' Pension Fund (which put up the money to buy the casino). Stone in turn takes orders from The Mafia bosses who actually control the Teamsters' Union. Billy Sherbert is the Casino Manager, but he takes all his orders from Ace, who was given that position by Stone, and so on.
    • Lampshaded by Ace on the casino security system:
      Ace: 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.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Lester has Ginger completely wrapped around his finger for much of the movie. However, Ace trumps him as a Magnificent Bastard and easily neutralizes him when he actually confronts him.
    • Nicky also seems to be manipulating Ginger in order to get his hands on the millions in jewelery that Ace has entrusted to her.
    • For that matter, Ginger isn't adverse to this trope either, being quite willing to turn on the waterworks and the puppy eyes whenever Ace confronts her about anything. The more their marriage breaks down the more savvy he is about this.
  • May-December Romance: Possibly Ginger and Ace (he's forty when he proposes), definitely Ginger and Diamond (who's known her since she was fourteen).
  • Melodrama: The opening titles, and the last third of the film seem to do this most.
  • The Millstone:
    • In the pursuit of his own criminal endeavors, Nicky seriously undermines Rothstein's efforts to run the casino. Unlike the typical Load, Nicky is actually very good at what he does; strong-arming people and pulling heists. It's the fact that he wants to be the Boss of Las Vegas that screws Ace over. For his part, Nicky doesn't really care about how it affects Ace or even his bosses. Overlaps with Poisonous Friend.
    • Piscano, the underboss of Kansas City. "A total disaster, this guy could fuck up a cup of coffee". He is supposed to keep the scheme under control but the guy is disgruntled and just talks and complains about the skimming operation all the time... inside his bugged place, to the FBI's rejoice. He also feels he is being fleeced so he starts an expense report book. The FBI finds it, and it's a blueprint with everybody`s names, addresses, dates, everything. "Piscano basically sunk the whole world."
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The FBI bugs Piscano's place looking for information about some obscure homicide, they instead find the Casino scheme. Lampshaded by the narration.
  • Mugging the Monster: Of a sort; the guy who tells Ace to 'shove that pen up your ass' would probably not have been so keen to throw his weight around had he known that Nicky was standing right next to him. And he soon learns his mistake. Boy, does he learn his mistake.
  • Narrators: Ace and Nicky, as well as Nicky's eventual killer.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Nicky abuses the croupiers, who have to take it stoically.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ace boasts of securing a thinly-disguised Siegfried and Roy for the Tangiers.
    • Ace and Nicky themselves, being based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro, respectively.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Done to Nicky and Dominick by Frank Marino and company, just before they're both Buried Alive.
  • Nothing But Hits:
    • The soundtrack, which goes from the late Sixties to the Eighties, is amazing.
    • As is the use of Bach's The Passion of St. Matthew in the opening and closing of the film.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Nicky stabs repeatedly stabs a guy in the neck after the man behaves rudely towards Ace.
  • Persona Non Grata:
    • Nicky gets his name in a Black Book and is banned from the casinos. Sam warns him beforehand but Nicky mocks the issue as the book only has two names and one of them is still Al Capone and continues to generate waves. Then he laments, as the ban hurts his operations.
    • Suggested with Ace, who sets up shop in San Diego in the end. His real life counterpart was banned from Las Vegas.
  • The Peter Principle: Nicky is highly competent at any task involving violence or intimidation, which gets him promoted to a job that requires tact and subtlety. Disaster ensues.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Nicky's relationship with his son.
    • Nicky chides a degenerate gambler for his vice but still gives him heating bill money for the sake of his family, twice.
    • Ace's relationship with his daughter is also a redeeming characteristic of his as well.
    • Also, Frank Marino lies to one of the Mafia bosses to protect Nicky, Ace and Ginger- all the while knowing that he'll be killed as well if the truth is discovered.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Sam schemes a fake airplane breakdown in order to retain a whale, a high-stakes player and billionaire cheapskate, who wins a lot of money in the casino. That man returns, and he loses the earnings plus more.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Nicky provides some offhand remarks which are a bit diluted by his charming personality.
    Nicky: I had a couple of sand niggers out there. You know, Arabs
  • Posthumous Narration: Given that the first thing we see is Ace — one of the two primary narrators of the film as a whole — get blown up by a car bomb, this is a reasonable assumption to make. It's subverted; by freak chance and a Good Bad Bug, Ace survives the bomb and is one of the only characters to survive the whole clusterfuck at the end of the movie. Played with by Nicky, who's own narration is interrupted by his being beaten to death, suggesting he was delivering it up to the point where he died.
  • Power of Trust: The entire theme of the film, at least, the lack of it. Ace's opening monologue hammers it home:
    Ace: 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? And for a while, I believed that's the kind of love I had.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • The Mafia's only goal in Vegas is to make money by skimming cash from the casinos and keeping the authorities complicit with bribery. There was no organized street crime until Nicky because it would attract unwanted police attention.
    • Nicky is consistently told to be smarter or cleaner with his unending violence; one example has Remo perturbed when a guy's head is found in the desert, but only because Nicky being sloppy with the body management draws a lot of heat from the media.
    • A cop is berated by his buddy when a thug gets killed by mistake, but mostly because they will have to fill out paperwork for months, so they plant a gun on the guy anyway.
  • Professional Gambler:
    • Ace, bettor. So good that he makes the odds fluctuate when he places a bet.
    • The Casino attracts a fair share of Trickster and con men. One of the counters against them is hiring ex-cheats to detect any foul-play.
  • Pretty in Mink: Loads of furs are worn in this movie. It would be easier to list the ladies in the film who didn't wear fur at one point. Ginger wears the most, but even Amy wears a little white fur jacket for half her screen time.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Sam is in fact very friendly with the local Vegas police, and even gets into a polite conversation with a pair of officers near the end of the film despite his tarnished reputation. The officers are even genuinely apologetic for having to assist Ginger during the domestic meltdown between her and Sam since they are legally required to do so.
  • Real Person Cameo: Frank Cullotta, the man Frank Marino was based on, appears as one of the Professional Killers sent by the bosses to tie up loose ends at the end of the film. In fact, the real life killing of John Nance was carried out by Cullotta. That is to say, an actor was paid to reenact the same murder he committed in real life.
    • Oscar Goodman, who plays Sam's lawyer, is the real-life defense attorney who represented Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro (the inspirations for Sam and Nicky). From 1999 to 2011, he was also the real-life mayor of Las Vegas.
  • Red Baron: Sam Rothstein has two. He's called "Ace" because of his skills as a sports handicapper. He's also called "The Jew" derisively.
  • Refusal of the Call: Sam is initially reluctant about the offer of running a casino, pointing out good arguments. Nicky snarks that it's Sam's entire No, Except Yes personality.
  • Retcon: An in-universe example, as Nicky is constantly revising his own memories to better suit his current mood, such as when he explodes over the idea that he would ever ask Ace's permission for anything, let alone where he would live or operate... when, of course, the audience saw him do exactly that earlier.
  • Right Under Their Noses: Early on, we follow an ordinary looking man in a suit walk into the casino's counting room, fill up a briefcase with money and calmly walk out again. The narration informs us that what we've just watched was essentially a casino heist.
  • Rule of Glamorous: All the fancy clothes and glitz is part of the image of Vegas, so it all needs to look that way.
  • Scoundrel Code: Ace Rothstein talks about his soon-to-be wife Ginger following "the Hustlers' Code", which boils down to making sure that she pays off everyone who is in a position to help her carry out her profession as a high-class prostitute, so they have an incentive to do so.
  • Shaggy Dog Story:
    "But in the end, I wound up right back where I started. I could still pick winners, and I could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing? And that's that."
  • Shock and Awe: The casino uses a cattle prod to simulate a heart attack on a casino cheater and get him back to the back room for some disincentivizing.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: A cop shoots Bernie Blue thinking his sub sandwich wrapped in tinfoil was a gun.
  • Show Within a Show: ''Aces Hiiigh!"
  • The Smart Guy: Ace is this to the mid-west bosses. The reason he gets promoted to managerial duties.
  • Smug Snake:
    • The state senator who happily comps free rooms and prostitutes from Sam, only to later to stab him in the back and then try and deny everything to weasel out of it when Sam confronts him is also one of these. The senator is based on Harry Reid, who's still a senator for Nevada and a very influential one at that.
  • The Sociopath: Nicky in a vicious and violent way and Ginger in a sneakier and yet darker style, since she is portrayed without redeeming qualities, her short-lived attempt to behave comes out of fear.
    • Frank Marino as well. Even to be a Nicky's henchman, he's extremely sadistic, when brutally tortures and kills someone, he does it with a Slasher Smile, not to mention the brutal murder of the beloved Nicky's young brother.
  • Spiritual Successor: to Goodfellas, another Scorsese film about mid-level Mafia men which was also based on real events and starred De Niro and Pesci.
  • Spiteful Spit: Nicky's brother runs a restaurant and he personally adds some... salival flavour to the sandwiches prepared for the cops.
  • Stealing from the Till: The mafia allows the teamsters to bankroll the casino in order to fleece it. A Briefcase Full of Money is sent monthly to the mid-west bosses. In turn the skimmers are being skimmed and take offence from it so they put an inutile supervisor to keep an eye of it.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Once more, Scorsese uses the song "Gimme Shelter" when things start to spiral out of control. A rain of corpses ensues in the climax.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Comes with the Control Freak baggage for Ace, but only Ward is shown as truly inept. A more clear example with the mob bosses; Nicky's lack of subtlety, Ace's crusade and Picano's idiocy end up derailing everything.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands:
    • Justified, Las Vegas is a virgin territory at first, but Nicky draws so much heat that he manages to attract many kinds of surveillance; wiretapping, lip reading, electronic bugs, car chases, aerial vigilance...
    • Nicky is Genre Savvy and gets away implementing anti-surveillance devices and tactics for a while, but he is bested when the Feds put a wire inside an adjacent wall.
  • Take Overthe City: Nicky becomes the crime lord of Las Vegas and muses about a bigger independence and a hit on the bosses, but his wishful thinking goes nowhere.
  • Taking the Kids: Ginger attempts to do this, but she comes back, knowing what could happen. Nicky even telss her it's a line you don't cross.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sam and Nicky start as complementary partners working under the mid-west bosses and mutually beneficial, but after a while their agendas diverge and collide, one simply wants to peacefully rule the casino while the other aims to become the big boss of Las Vegas.
  • Trunk Shot: Done when the police finds two corpses inside a car.
  • Twisting the Words "I'm the boss".
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Nicky and his wife, Jennifer.
  • Understatement: Remo has a tendency to use euphemisms, mild words and conditional forms when he wants to be imperative or inquires about major problems.
    • Lampshaded by Andy Stone
    Stone The old man said maybe your friend should give in. And when the old man says "maybe" that's like a papal bull. Not only should you quit, you should run.
    • Several characters reiterate that an infidelity could end with everyone involved in it dead, including the ones who cover it up, as this is a big no-no for the old timers. Boss Remo downplays all that in the actual question.
    Remo: Frankie, be straight with me; is the little guy fucking the Jew's wife? Because if he is, that could be a problem.
  • Unwinnable: By design
    Sam : It's all been arranged just for us to get your money. That`s the truth about Las Vegas. We're the only winners. The players don't stand a chance. [...] In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing. The longer they play, the more they lose. In the end, we get it all.
    • Later on an incompetent employee is so clueless after a triple jackpot in 20 minutes that he makes Sam wonder if he's just dumb or an accessory to the scam.
    Ward: It's a casino. People gotta win sometimes.
    Sam: Ward, you're pissing me off. Now you're insulting my intelligence. [...] The probability on one machine is a million and a half to one, on three machines in a row it's in the billions. It cannot happen. [...] Get your ass outta here"
  • Utopia: "Las Vegas is Paradise on Earth, it`s like a morality car wash. It does for us what Lourdes does for humpbacks and cripples". Sam's activities are not only legitimate but sponsored; he gets to manage a very profitable Casino, be a respected citizen and have a beatiful and socially loved wife. And for Nicky is a virgin territory ripe for his criminal enterprises, he can roam virtually free from the Mid-West mob tutelage and rob people blind.
  • Viva Las Vegas: So much that even scenes that didn't take place in Vegas in Real Life take place here.
  • Villain Protagonist: Ace, Anti-Villain. Nicky, Ax-Crazy sociopath.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • Zig-zagged: At first Sam builds an entrepreneurial reputation, is given awards and social recognition, but after a while things go sour and he is surrounded by great media controversy regarding his license problem and his association with Nicky, who is a well-known ruffian that almost lives inside a courthouse by then. As a reaction, Sam starts his own talk-show to make a stand and defend himself and his image. He gets rebuked by the wiseguys as this flamboyant crusade draws unwanted attention.
    • The corrupt politicians provide a straighter example.
  • Villainous Breakdown: EVERYONE. Ace, Nicky, Ginger, the mob bosses, everyone.
  • What the Hell, Villain?
    • Sam is admonished by Andy Stone — on behalf of Remo — for his extravagant television stunts and his crusade to appeal to the Supreme Court. Nicky reprimands Sam too, as he gets calls from home asking if Sam has gone batshit.
    • Nicky gets reprimanded by Sam when the former extorts Sam's banker, who being a square guy is likely going to run for cover to the FBI.
      • Late in the film this is Sam's attitude towards Nicky in general, as his constant crime sprees are drawing unwanted police attention. Eventually the mob bosses think so, too.
    • After Ginger calls Nicky when Ace finds out where she has taken their daughter, Nicky heads over to Ace's house and admonishes Sam for not calling him when Amy was kidnapped, saying that uneasy business relationship aside this is a family matter.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??;
    • Lester's fate is never shown, he just kinda disappears after he goes with Ginger in attempting to take Ace's daughter. In the original script, Lester was supposed to be shot in the desert by Nicky as a favor for Sam.
    • Frankie mentions that his lie to Remo about Nicky and Ginger could get him killed if the bosses found out. By the end of the movie, there's no way they haven't found out about the affair. It's never stated if the mob bosses punished Frankie for lying about it though his penance might have been having to kill Nicky and Dominic himself.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Nicky pulls a very simple one: If he wins, he collects, if he loses he either doesn't pay or strong-arms to recover the money. It's implied that it only works with bookies and underworld people; an alarmed Sam points out that a square guy like a banker is gonna run to the FBI after being threatened by Nicky.
    Sam It wasn't very scientific, but it worked [...] What were they going to do, muscle Nicky? Nicky was the muscle.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Ginger and Nicky begin having an affair. When Ace finds out, he is less angry (being on the downward spiral of his marriage and feelings towards Ginger and having been implied to be playing away from home himself) than terrified, because if things go sour there's a very real chance that Nicky will kill them both. And because of this, a very real chance that the bosses will kill all of them if they find out:
    Remo: Frankie, be straight with me; is the little guy fucking the Jew's wife? Because if he is, that could be a problem.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once everything starts going belly-up, people start getting assassinated. Including Nicky. Inverted with Ace, who specifically notes at the end that he's still alive because he can still make money for the bosses.

And that's that.
The Age of InnocenceCreator/Martin ScorseseGangs of New York
The CarCreator/UniversalThe Cat in the Hat
Breakfast on PlutoThe SeventiesCoonskin
CarringtonFilms of the 1990sCasper

alternative title(s): Casino
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