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"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."
Sam "Ace" Rothstein

Casino is a 1995 crime drama 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 for the Chicago Outfit. Rothstein, a ruthlessly logical and efficient character, soon turns the Tangiers into a successful and profitable organisation for the Mob bosses, but things start to 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 interferes 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 four casinos for the Chicago Outfit and who served as the inspiration for the Rothstein character, as well as Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, a Chicago Outfit enforcer who had ambitions of becoming boss of his own crime family and was the inspiration for Santoro's 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.

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, and Casino shows the very high rollers of the mob, at the top level and indeed the source of their economy.

Casino holds the world record for the most dialogue in a single film, with 67,678 individual words of spoken dialogue. Sam Rothstein is the character with the single most dialogue in a film, speaking 26,798 of those words.

This film provided examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Amy is tied to the bed while she's asleep and left alone in the house when Ginger wants to go on an escapade with her lover.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Sam tells Nicky that being in the Black Book puts him on par with Al Capone, whom De Niro played in The Untouchables.
    • Once again, Robert De Niro claims that he's the boss.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Nearly every Real Life person portrayed in the film had their name changed. Such changes include:
    • Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal to Sam "Ace" Rothstein
    • Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro to Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro.
    • Geraldine "Geri" McGee to Ginger McKenna.
    • Stephanie Rosenthal to Amy Rothstein.
    • Frank Cullotta to Frank "Frankie" Marino.
    • Joseph "Joey" Aiuppa to Remo Gaggi.
    • Allen Glick to Philip Greene.
    • Allan Sachs to Billy Sherbert.
    • Carl DeLuna to Artie Piscano.
    • Nicholas Civella to Vincent Borelli.
    • Jackie Cerone to Vinny Forlano.
    • Frank Balistrieri to Americo Capelli.
    • Allen Dorfman to Andy Stone.
    • Michael Spilotro to Dominick Santoro.
    • Lenny Marmor to Lester Diamond.
    • George Vandermark to John Nance.
    • Tamara Rand to Anna Scott.
    • Harry Reid to Harrison Roberts.
    • Darwin Lamb to Pat Webb.
    • Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein to Bernie Blue.
    • Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia to Anthony "Tony Dogs" and Charlie M.
    • Akio Kashiwagi to K.K. Ichikawa.
    • Vincent Spilotro to Nicholas Santoro Jr.
    • Nancy Spilotro to Jennifer Santoro.
    • Interestingly, the only people whose names were not changed are Oscar Goodman, Jerry Vale, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, and Frankie Avalon, who are all played by themselves.
    • The Stardust Resort & Casino also counts, as it is changed to the Tangiers Casino.
  • Adapted Out: The real-life Frank Rosenthal and Geri McGee had a son and a daughter, with Geri also having a daughter from her first marriage to Lenny Marmor, the inspiration for Lester Diamond. In the film, Sam and Ginger only have one daughter, Amy, with no mention of Ginger and Lester having any children together.
  • Affably Evil: Nicky seems to genuinely care for his son, and likes Ace.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Ginger has a thing for them, apparently. It is implied (or speculated) to be what draws her to Ace. She has an on-and-off relationship with Lester, her abusive ex and a pimp. She also begins an affair with Nicky, the biggest gangster of the movie.
  • Almighty Janitor: Sam's scheme to run the casino while his gaming license application is pending is to shift around in innocuous-seeming jobs like "entertainment director" and "food and beverage manager." See Loophole Abuse below.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: For one scene, 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Anywhere else in the country, Sam is a bookie hassled by copsnote , but in Las Vegas, all Ace wants to do is to make an honest living by running with efficiency a legal casino for his mafia bosses back home in Chicago. But in doing so, he is not above using ruthless methods or being an enabler, as Nicky does most of the unavoidable dirty work. Still, Ace is quite decent compared to other characters.
  • Artistic License – History: While a lot of this movie is accurate, there were some liberties taken:
    • Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Ace's real-life counterpart, managed four casinos, which the movie condenses into one for pragmatic purposes.
    • While Nicky's real-life counterpart, Tony Spilotro, did actually torture a man in Chicago to discover who his accomplice was, the crime they committed wasn't shooting up a Mafia-owned bar, but murdering two made men. Also, the torture incident happened in 1962, a decade before the events of the movie.
    • The Kansas City wiretap was in a pizzeria, not a grocery store.
    • Frankie Marino's real-life equivalent, Frank Cullotta, couldn't have been involved in the murder of the Spilotro brothers because he had agreed to become an FBI informant and was in witness protection at the time, after the FBI played him a wiretapped conversation of Spilotro getting sanctioned by the Chicago Outfit to kill him. In addition, as revealed in his autobiography, Cullotta was offended at the Spilotro brothers being beaten to death: he considered it barbaric and would have just shot them.
    • Lefty and Geri, the real-life counterparts of Sam and Ginger, were FBI informants all along. In all fairness to Martin Scorsese, this wasn't revealed until 2008 shortly after Lefty's death.
    • While Lefty did complain to the kitchen about its blueberry muffins, he didn't actually demand an equal number of berries in each muffin. He did demand that each muffin contain at least ten blueberries, which could be accomplished pretty easily by just adding more blueberries to the mix.
    • Lenny Marmor, the real-life counterpart of Lester Diamond, was not a pimp unlike the movie character.
    • Philip Green is said to be from Arizona, while his real-life counterpart Allen Glick was from San Diego. The movie also leaves out Glick's rivalry with Rosenthal, as Glick insisted that being the legal owner should have meant he was in charge.
    • Nicky claims the black book only has two names in it, and one of them is Al Capone. In reality, it had around 14 names at around the time the scene takes place, and Capone couldn't have been in the black book because it didn't exist until after he died.
    • A lot what happened in the film actually happened outside of Las 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, as well as pay an in-joke to GoodFellas, by having Joe Pesci play a character who gets beaten to death by Frank Vincent with a baseball bat, the reversal of Pesci's Tommy DeVito killing Frank Vincent's Billy Batts in GoodFellas. Ironically, in Real Life, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, who inspired Nicky, died very similarly to how Pesci's previous role of Tommy died in GoodFellas (being lured to Chicago for a meeting on the premise he was going to see his brother get made, only for it to actually be pretense for a hit).
    • While the Hole in the Wall Gang was run by Tony Spilotro, unlike Nicky Santoro, he did not participate in the heists that his theft ring carried out, insulating himself from the dirty work. Spilotro most likely did not personally kill Tamara Rand (Anna Scott in the film) for this very reason.
    • There really was an FBI plane tracking Spilotro that went down at a golf course, but unlike in the movie, it went down due to mechanical difficulties, not because it ran out of fuel.
    • Unlike Sam Rothstein, Frank Rosenthal eventually stopped working for the mob after leaving Vegas.
    • Frank Rosenthal, the real-life inspiration for Ace, made it clear after the movie came out that he definitely never tried to juggle on his talk show. He also claimed he would never offer to let a card cheat keep the money in exchange for a Knee Capping or broken hand.
  • At Least I Admit It: Nicky's attitude stems from the fact that he's being looked down on 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.
  • Authority in Name Only: Rothstein's mob connections mean that he can't be recognized on paper as the Tangiers' owner, so he has a squeaky-clean front man, Philip Green, as the owner on documents.note 
  • 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.
  • 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. Special mention goes to Remo, who single-handedly seals Andy’s fate after everyone else vouches for his unquestionable loyalty.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The Cold Open can fool a first-time viewer into believing that Ace is a dead man and that the rest of the movie is about how he got there when in reality, he survived the car explosion just like his real-life counterpart Frank Rosenthal.
    • Likewise, Nicky's status as one of the narrators seemingly gives him Plot Armor, but this is subverted when his narration is interrupted by Frankie's betrayal.
  • 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, while Frank Marino's equivalent Frank Cullotta was placed into the Witness Protection Program.
  • Batter Up!: The sad, sad fate of Nicky and his brother.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Ginger tying up Amy to her bed and locking the door to go out with Nicky is what finally causes Ace to finally give up on his relationship with Ginger for good. Keep in mind earlier he was willing to forgive her for trying to set him up to be assassinated. This is seen earlier as well when Ace openly notes he'd have had her and Lester killed if she followed through further on kidnapping Amy.
    • Ace detests unprofessionalism. Attempts to butter him up always infuriate him.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: In a movie full of brash hot-tempered gangsters Pat Webb is very cool, but has some serious teeth.
  • 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 Comedy: What humour there is in the film is very dark.
  • Blatant Lies: To milk a rich whale like K.K. Ichikawa some more, Billy lies about engine trouble on his intended departing flight and that there are no more flights at the time so that he'll be forced to stay a little longer.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Casino is far more violent than Goodfellas. The film has almost no lighter moments, and its killings are far more stomach churning.
  • Book Ends:
    • Ace ends the movie right back where he started, accompanied to Bach's "Mathaus Passion".
    • Nicky starts the movie talking about "problems" winding up vanishing into holes in the desert. 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.
    • Sam is inordinately qualified to make his bosses money either as a handicapper or as a casino manager. It’s because of this that the bosses tolerate his Control Freak style and, later, his open feud with the Nevada State Gaming Commission.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag:
    • A particularly clever example. In Goodfellas, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci played roles similar to the ones they play in this movie. However, there are certain notable differences — in particular, while Nicky Santoro is more or less the same as Tommy de Vito (a blustery psychotic maniac with a Hair-Trigger Temper), Jimmy Conway was a lot more similar to Tommy than in this movie (being a calculatingly murderous sociopath rather than his comparatively more benevolent and decent character here). As such, the fact that Ace here is obviously terrified of Nicky in a way Jimmy wasn't to Tommy in the earlier movie serves to make Nicky even more terrifying.
    • Once again, Noodles and Max are sharing a girl.
    • Frank Marino beats Nicky Santoro with a Baseball Bat. Frank Vincent had previously played Billy Batts in Goodfellas where he was killed by Joe Pesci who played Nicky Santoro Word of God says this reversal was intentional.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Not in a mob casino, anyway. When Sam catches a guy cheating at blackjack, they zap him with a cattle prod to remove him from the table, then break his hand to make an example of him to his partner as a warning before kicking them out. Sam offers the partner the money and the hammer, or walking out unharmed; he chooses to leave without the money.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Loophole that allowed Ace to work in the Casino without a License comes back to bite him hard after he pisses off County Commissioner Pat Webb.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The film has a "fuck" count of 422, the most in a film until it was dethroned in 1999 by Summer of Sam at 435... until 2013 when another one of Scorsese's films, The Wolf of Wall Street, dethroned that at 569 uses.
  • Composite Character: The real-life inspiration for Ace managed four Vegas casinos, which the movie distills into just one, the Tangiers.
  • Control Freak: Ace obsesses over the smallest details:
    Ace: From now on, put an equal amount of blueberries in each muffin.
    Chef: Do you know how long that's going to take?
    Ace: I don't care. An equal amount in each muffin.
  • Consummate Professional: The reason Ace gets promoted to manager; he is a money machine who "sleeps and breathes 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 El Dorado. A car that perfectly reflects the opulent, flashy gaudiness of Sam's surroundings and the life he leads within them.
  • Corrupt Politician: The chairmen of the Gaming Control Board investigation, including a Commissioner and a Senator who enjoys free VIP treatment in the Casino but starts clashing with Sam after a nepotism issue. The Senator is based on Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front:
    • Nicky opens a jewelry store called The Gold Rush as a front for his theft ring, and a restaurant called The Leaning Tower. The restaurant is 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.
  • Costume Porn: The costume budget for the film was $1 million. Robert De Niro had seventy different costumes throughout the film, Sharon Stone had forty. Both were allowed to keep their costumes afterwards.
  • Crapsaccharine World:
    • Las Vegas. At first, it seems like a wonderfully colorful, bright, and vivid city where you could have a good time, but don't be fooled, there's corruption and violent mobsters.
    • Inverted at the end of the film. After the decline of The Mafia, large corporations begin to take control of the city. In Ace's view, this actually made it worse; sure, the Mafia were stone-cold killers and ruthless criminals, but at least when they ran things there was an honest and welcoming authenticity to the place, whereas in his view the corporations taking over made it soulless on top of being even more money-grubbing.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Nicky and his brother Dominick. Asshole Victim, yes, but that was still a horrific way to go.
    • Nicky puts one victim's head in a vise.
  • 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. Ace at one point notes what he does would put him in jail anywhere else in the country, but gets him local awards in Vegas.
    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!
  • Dated History: Some of what was depicted in the movie is now known to be untrue:
    • Nicky and Dominick's real-life counterparts Tony and Michael Spilotro were not beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield and buried alive. That was thought to be what happened at the time the film was made, but it's now known that they were actually killed in a Cook County basement. The bodies were then buried in a cornfield, which is why the authorities initially believed they had been killed there.
    • Ace's real-life equivalent, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, was an FBI informant... but since this didn't become public knowledge until 2008, after Rosenthal had passed away, it's never even hinted at in the movie. His wife, Geri, Ginger's real-life equivalent, was also an informant, even sharing the same FBI handler; neither ever found out what the other was doing.
  • Deadly Euphemism: A former business partner of front man Phil Green's, Anna Scott decides to sue him in court, the judge ruling that Green will have to open up his books and risk exposing the Mafia. So the bosses in Chicago and Kansas decide to "settle the case out of court" instead. And by that, we mean "they send Nicky to break into her house and shoot her three times in the head".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ace and Nicky — especially when they're narrating.
  • Death by Adaptation: Piscano's real-life counterpart didn't die of a heart attack during the FBI questioning.
  • Death by Irony: Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is beaten to death by Frank Marino (Frank Vincent). Ostensibly, the first time Vincent got to kill a character played by Pesci, instead of the other way around like it was in Raging Bull and Goodfellas, both directed by Scorsese.
  • Death Glare: Part of Billy's job description seems to be glaring at suspected cheaters or troublemakers.
  • 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 issues, Nicky's antics, the wire in the produce store...), which is what usually happened when the FBI were seeking indictments.
    • Inverted with Ace's car bomb. A variety of contributing factors conspire to spare his life.
  • Defiant to the End: Dominic screams “Fucking Rat” over and over at Frank and the others as they’re about to beat him to death with baseball bats.
  • 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. Ace is a frontman for the mafia, but puts on airs and thinks getting invited to country clubs is a sign of legitimacy when it's Nicky who represents the reality of their work.
  • Determinator:
    • Nicky:
      • According to 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Phillip Green is chosen as front man for Chairman of the Board for the Tangiers Corporation. However he was a sketchy low level real estate developer who had been involved with some shady practices in the past. Something that would definitely raise some suspicions and sure enough causes some big problems down the road.
  • Dirty Cop: Sam warns Nick that the Sheriff in Las Vegas isn't above burying people in holes in the desert.
  • 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."
    • The Midwest Mafia bosses, displeased that a few thousand dollars was going missing in the counting room, install Kansas City underboss Artie Piscano to oversee all transactions. Artie, as Nicky put it best, could find a way to fuck up a cup of coffee. Too scatterbrained to memorize anything, he writes everything down in a notebook, which, of course, the FBI uncover.
  • 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.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Sam orders a bunch of sexy waitresses to sing Happy Birthday to someone so one of his men can zap a cheater with a cattle prod.
  • The Ditz:
    • Ward, who happens to be the cousin of County Commissioner Patt Webb and has a job in the casino because of that.
    • Piscano, This guy can fuck up a cup of coffee.. He gets a literal death by stupidity.
  • Do You Trust Me?:
    • Sam opens a safety deposit box for "emergency funds" (in case he gets kidnapped or shaken down by the police), to the tune of 2 million dollars. He entrusts the only other key to his wife Ginger, and gets asked by a surprised bank manager if he trusts 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 members of another crew from Sam's casino.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Ginger suffers hard from her drug abuse and Nicky becomes more sloppy as a result of his drug abuse.
  • 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. This sequence arguably does the film a disservice, as Vegas's "family" period barely lasted half a decade.
      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."
  • Epic Movie: It technically counts as one with a 3-hour running time, and an All-Star Cast.
  • Escape Call: When Ace Rothstein's secretary announces the arrival in his office of a local official he doesn't really want to meet with, he asks her to call him back in a few minutes so he can get away from the meeting.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ginger is introduced playing craps with a man at one of the tables, and pocketing his chips while he's distracted. He initially lets it go, but when they are done, she finds the payment of a few chips insufficient and a confrontation ensues. She starts tossing the rest of his many chips into the air to cause a big commotion. It shows that she's a thief and con artist who is given leeway at first and isn't afraid to tear down her victim when necessary, but also that she's not as clever as she thinks she is to avoid being caught in the first place.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The only major character that survives the whole film is Ace (and that was not for lack of trying). Once the mafia decides to purge anybody who can connect them to Las Vegas, the film switches to "Characters Dropping Like Flies" speed.
  • 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 hire a hitman to kill Ace; while relations between the two are at a low and he's been considering it himself, the guy is still like a brother to Nicky, so he's not going to do it without a lot of thought. It's implied that he eventually made up his mind and the car bomb Ace barely survives was a parting gift from Nicky, though.
      • 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. He even calls Remo one, though only in narration.
      • Hypocrite: However, Nicky also gambles, though it's not actually gambling since he gets his money back through intimidation if he loses.
      • 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 drops whatever he is doing at 6:30 am to go home and cooks 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 Remo's bars, 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 (while Ace listens to the commotion on the other end of the line with an amused expression).
        Nicky: You took your boots off? You put your feet on the table… you shit-kickin', stinky, horse-manure-smellin' muddafucker you! You fuck me up over there, I'll stick you in a hole in the fucking desert! You understand? Go over there and apologize.
    • The bosses in Chicago and Kansas City "don't like any fucking around with the other guys' wives". In fact, if you caught someone else having an affair, you had an obligation to inform the boss about it. (In that case, it's more Pragmatic Villainy because a Woman Scorned is likely to talk to the FBI, and cheating around on a confederate is going to cause bad feeling and disharmony which could threaten the whole operation.)
    • Ace is disgusted with the modern Las Vegas of "theme park" casinos that attract families to invest in their kids' college fund when before it was the province of serious 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.
  • Evil Old Folks: The hitmen sent by Remo to take care of any potential witnesses are both old and brutal.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Unsurprisingly, the movie focuses on a Las Vegas casino run by the Mafia.
  • 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. Similarly, Ace begins greying at the temples.
  • Everybody Smokes/Smoking Is Cool: It's the 1970s in Vegas. What did you think?
  • Eye Scream: The scene with the vise. This specific bit was later cut by Scorsese, though the rest of the scene stayed.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Nicky was hardly stoic, but notice that most of his rage and sorrow during his death scene comes from watching what is happening to his little brother. He knows the same fate awaits him but doesn’t seem to care about that.
    • Dominic chooses to scream “Fucking Rat” at all his assailants rather than show any fear.
  • 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.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Sam marries Ginger, knowing well her bad ways. In his hubris, he convinces himself that he can change her, but, to their mutual misery and ruin, she reverts back to her swindler nature in little time.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Sam "Ace" Rothstein: His pride and his ego. He arrogantly forgets that it was because of the mob bosses, as well as the Vegas police and politicians looking the other way, that he was able to run the Casino. He stepped on all their toes and only survived because he made good money for the bosses and still had the potential to do so. He marries Ginger, knowing her bad reputation and seeing first-hand how she was deeply attached to a worthless pimp. Yet, he convinces himself that he can change her for no reason other than ego, which he admits during the narration.
      Sam "Ace" Rothstein: "Before I married Ginger, I heard all the stories, but I didn't give a fuck. 'I'm Sam Ace Rothstein', I said. I can change her."
    • Nicky Santoro: His Narcissism. He lacks empathy for everyone around him and thinks he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He displays the classic social disorder of never admitting when he's wrong, even denying things he did or said, just to get his way, like claiming he never asked Sam if he can come to Vegas, when he did. Or him pretending that Sam's banker Charlie Clark didn't warn him that depositing large sums of money would result in a loss. Subverted somewhat after his play with Ginger failed. He admits he messed up afterwards.
    • The inability of the Mafia Dons to accept that the counters take a small cut of the skim for themselves leads to them putting the skim in the hands of Artie Piscano, whose big mouth and overzealous recordkeeping (done for the sake of reimbursements) brings the whole operation down.
  • FBI Agent: Nicky and Sam are under constant surveillance. 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.note 
  • Fingore: Ace puts a mallet to the hand of a cheater. The cheater's partner opts to abandon the money rather than suffer the same treatment.
  • Fixing the Game: The eponymous casino encounters the occasional cheater. It doesn't end well.
  • Forced to Watch:
    • When Ginger is caught trying to steal Sam's money for Lester, he drags her out of the diner so she can see Lester getting beat up by Sam and Nicky's goons as punishment while all she can do is wail that it was her fault, not Lester's.
    • Before he's sent to the same fate, Nicky is forced to watch his brother beaten to death and buried alive, with his head forced up when he tries to avert his eyes or struggle free.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • The car bomb 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.
    " 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 Artie he'll have a heart attack if he doesn't relax.
    • Nicky pointing out that Sam keeping Remo 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.
    • In his first narration, Nicky goes on a tangent regarding hole-digging (as it relates to disposing of a body). Nicky later dies by being buried alive.
    • When Sam first saw Ginger, she was on a date with a man whose casino chips she threw all over the place out of spite. Instead of Ginger's behavior being a red flag, Sam falls in love and marries her. Like Ginger's date that night, Sam ends up regretting it, as Ginger throws his earnings away, too.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • Nicky has a polite conversation with a local police chief who doubles as his son's baseball coach. They're just two Dads there, instead of cop and crook.
    • 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).
  • Flowery Insult: A good portion of Nicky Santoro's often profane talkbacks.
  • Funny Background Event: When Ginger is talking on the phone to Sam, Amy can be seen poking and annoying Lester as he impotently threatens her.
  • Gambling Ruins Lives: The movie makes no bones about the dangers of a gambling addiction, several scenes show that people can, and indeed are likely to lose big when they play enough. One short scene in particular shows an associate of the violent, perpetually angry mobster Nicky Santoro begging Nicky for money to keep him afloat after he's lost everything he has. Nicky is furious because he's already given the guy cash to keep the heat on at his house and get groceries for his kids, money the guy also gambled away. It doesn't get any better at the end when the mob loses their hold on Las Vegas; "Ace" Rothstein caustically notes that thanks to the big corporations who bought up the casinos, Las Vegas may look like Disneyland, but ordinary people lose their life's savings while their kids play on cheap attractions.
    Rothstein: Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, mommy and daddy drop house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots.
  • 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.
  • Greed:
    • The blackjack cheaters are discovered by the casino staff because the player has made the right move against the dealer's hole card every single time. Sam even says that they'd probably be able to get away with it if they didn't use their cheat tactic on every single hand, but that the cheats are always too greedy to think about things like that.
    • A big reason why the FBI eventually gets wise to the mafia skimming the profits of the casino is because the mafia installed an incompetent overseer to monitor the skim who ends up ruining everything. The overseer was installed because the bosses were enraged that a tiny portion of the skim was being pocketed by the various people who were helping with the transport of the money from the Tangiers to Chicago, and they can't accept even this small element of leakage. John Nance tries to convince them to just let it go, but the bosses aren't having it.
  • Groin Attack: In the infamous vise scene, Nicky talks about how he and his henchmen (off-screen) tortured a man named Anthony to extract the name of an individual they are searching for; one of the things they did to Anthony was use ice picks to stab him in his groin area.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Nicky Santoro's spectacular temper is a fatal liability which is pivotal to the plot. Sam even states that in normal circumstances with Nicky, there's a 1% chance Sam could be killed.
    Sam: Normally, my prospects of coming back alive from a meeting with Nicky were 99 out of 100. But this time, when I heard him say "a couple of hundred yards down the road", I gave myself 50-50.
  • Hammerspace Hair: Nicky's wife Jennifer hides a bunch of stolen diamonds in her mop to sneak it through the airport.
  • Head Crushing: Just barely Averted. After Remo's restaurant is attacked and both mob-connected people and civilians are killed, Nicky captures one of the guys involved and tries to torture the guy into revealing who was behind the attack. For two days the guy refuses to talk... until Nicky sticks his head in a vice and tightens it enough to make one of his eyes pop out. That makes the guy finally break and Nicky has one of his mooks cut the guy's throat as a Mercy Kill.
  • Head in a Vise: Probably the defining example of this.
    Nicky: Listen to me, Anthony. I got your head in a fuckin' vise. I'll squash your head like a fuckin' grapefruit if you don't give me a name. Don't make me have to do this, please. Don't make me be a bad guy, come on.
  • 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 physically abused 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 time.
  • 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 Lenny Mamor, the basis behind Lester Diamond (who wasn't her pimp, but her high school sweetheart). She was known for her generosity and her intelligence: her ex-husband Lefty stated that she could walk into a room full of Harvard MBA types and discuss business theories on their level. She even served as an informant for the FBI alongside Lefty (though neither of them knew the other was an informant and that the same agents were functioning as their handlers). 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. However, whether she was a loving mom is debatable as people in the book claimed that she favored her son over her daughter. The story about her tying her child to the bed frame is based solely on Lefty's word for it.
    • And still on that subject, both Lefty and Geri were FBI informants all along. This information wasn't revealed until after Lefty died in 2008.
  • Honor Before Reason: Played with when Ace meets with County Commissioner Pat Webb. Both Ace and Webb know how incompetent Webb’s Brother-in-Law is, but Ace refuses to give him some low level job despite Webb personally appealing to him and stating he would see it as a personal favor. A lot of Ace’s problems later in the movie would’ve been avoided if he’d just appeased the powerful, but reasonable man.
    • Tony Doggs is willing to suffer a week of torture to protect his boss despite knowing there’s no way he’s getting out of it alive. It’s not until he gets his eye popped out with his head in a vice that he finally snaps.
  • Hookers and Blow: Though less on the hookers and more on the blow.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Sam's car blowing up and he narrates the rest of the film.
  • Humiliation Conga: The spotter who gets caught cheating gets zapped by a cattle prod, dragged to a room where he gets pants pulled down to reveal the wire, is threatened with a saw to his fingers, gets his hand smashed by a hammer, then gets thrown in the alley.
  • 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 to comfort her following this, and how Ace was a jerk for doing this. To which Ace points out that Nicky appears to have conveniently left out his own role in this matter, since they were Nicky's guys.
    • The mob bosses get outraged over the idea that someone 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 we're 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.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: In his Hubris, Ace proclaims this when reflecting on Ginger's hustler ways,
    Sam: When I married Ginger, I knew all the stories. But I didn't give a fuck. I'm Sam Rothstein, I said. I can change her.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Joe Pesci is a perfect dead-ringer for Tony Spilotro, the mobster that Nicky Santoro was based on.
  • In Medias Res: The movie opens with Sam's car being blown up, an event which happens near the end of the film, then flashes back to the events that lead up to the incident, before continuing from that point.
  • Inside Job: The Outfit bought into the Vegas casino industry to launder their illegal money, often skimming right out of the count room.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. Even victims of point-blank head shots react for a split second before dying, with some twitching, and in the closing massacre montage, one gangster gets shot halfway through telling his shooter "fuck you" and he manages to finish off the sentence (as in "fuck - BANG! - you!") before dropping dead.
  • Ironic Echo: "You think that you're home" is said by Commissioner Webb to Sam and later by Sam to Ginger. It highlights the pervasive hypocrisy of Las Vegas, Webb and the rest of the Nevada state government having let in people they know are criminals because they wanted to get something out of it only to become unreasonably angry when they get taken advantage of in turn, and then Sam himself turns around and does the same thing with his own wife.
  • 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 Anna Scott in a real estate deal, thus bringing a lot of unwanted police attention on them and also scare away the cash cow tourists.
    • Everybody is punished by his own sins, in conformity to Hollywood morality and Scorsese's Christian upbringing, except... the Mafia Godfathers themselves.note 
    • 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 in the interest of Plausible Deniability.
    • A meta-example: legendarily fast-talking caustic comic Don Rickles barely has a single line of dialogue as The Stoic silent-type casino manager Billy Sherbert. Rickles also got interviewed on the talk show that Ace's real-life counterpart Frank Rosenthal ran as the Stardust's entertainment director.
    • Sam prides himself on being a Control Freak, "that there is not one single thing I will not catch", and yet he's only saved from the car bomb by the unknowing luck of the passenger seat having a metal plate installed under it, suppressing the explosion just long enough for Sam to scramble to safety.
      EMT: You sure are lucky, mister!
  • It's Personal: When Frank and the others beat Nicky and his brother to death with the baseball bats it’s obvious it wasn’t just business and that they were getting retribution for all the trouble he had caused them over the years. Frank even makes eye contact with Nicky as he’s begging them to end Dominic’s misery.
  • Just a Gangster: Nicky, as mentioned under At Least I Admit It, thinks that the sort of old-school thuggery that he employs is ultimately the heart of what being a gangster is, and has no use for the semi-legit, more white collar sort of crime that Ace and the bosses are converting to. (Possibly because it's fairly obvious that he would never fit in with such a plan.) It results in Nicky being brutally murdered when he won't change and his exploits threaten everyone involved. Ace, on the other hand, rolls with the changing times and lands on his feet.
  • 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. Historically, at least five of them were convicted and sent to prison after the FBI shut down the skimming.
    • Ace gets 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. His real-life counterpart Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal was even moreso, having secretly served as an 'echelon' informant for the FBI and managing to avoid ever standing trial for criminal charges.
    • Frank Marino is likely promoted to Nicky's position at the end despite being his right-hand in many transgressions and fooling the bosses with some lies. His real-life counterpart Frank Cullotta turned informant for the FBI and went into Witness Protection.
    • Phillip Green, aside from getting questioned over extortion and the murder of his "partner" Anna Scott, seems to get away with merely being bought out by corporations, as he's rarely mentioned after halfway through.
    • When you think about it one of the cheaters who was caught gets off with nothing more than a stern warning never to come back.
    • Lampshaded in one scene where Ace narrates that out of respect guys from other crews get away with a warning.
    • The Nevada politicians aren’t shown to be criminals, but certainly take advantage of their positions of power. All get away scot-free. Being as the State Senator played by Dick Smothers is based on Harry Reid we can assume he went on to much bigger things.
    • Lester Diamond, Ginger's former pimp boyfriend and a major reason for the deterioration of Sam and Ginger's marriage (and by extension, the collapse of mob control of the casino), gets off fairly easy, outside of a serious beating early on in the film.
  • 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.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Via Interactive Narrator. Nicky is in the middle of delivering some narration, when he's cut off by a bat to his back.
  • Kosher Nostra: Sam "Ace" Rothstein definitely qualifies as an example, since he runs a Las Vegas casino.
  • Lady Drunk: Ginger turns into this as her marriage goes downhill.
  • Leave No Witnesses: All the other dons agree that Andy Stone is a stand-up guy and should be spared from their mass-killing. But Remo comments "Look, why take a chance?" and that settles the matter.
  • Loophole Abuse: Ace's criminal record makes it impossible for him to get a license from the Nevada Gaming Commission. But his mentor points out that he doesn't need to have a gaming license to work in a casino, he just needs to apply for one. There's a loophole in Nevada law in that an applicant can start working in a casino while the application is being processed. So after a while he can change his nominal job title, putting his application to the back of the line (which has a multi-year backlog), and then 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 bookthat is, until the Outfit order a hit on a silent partner trying to sue their front man, and outrage from the press leads to the Gaming Commission putting Ace under investigation.
    • And even when his gaming license is denied, all that means is that Ace can't take a position to directly manage the casino's gambling operations, so instead he takes the position of "entertainment director" and hosts his own talk show right in the casino itself where he can still run its operations under the table.
  • Love at First Sight: Sam falls for Ginger on the spot, when she is throwing away the winnings of another 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 empty-handed, 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 the 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 in Chicago and Kansas City 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 jewelry 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.
  • Manly Tears: Nicky when his brother is brutally beaten to an inch of his life right in front of Nicky before being stripped and buried alive, with Nicky knowing he's next. All he can do is sob loudly as the gangsters throw his brother's body into the hole.
  • Meaningful Name: Rosenthal's name is changed to Rothstein for the film, the last name of an infamous racketeer and gambler, Arnold Rothstein, who was known as "The Brain" and engineered the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.
  • 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.
    • 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 grocery store looking for information about some obscure homicide, they instead find the Casino scheme. Lampshaded by the narration.note 
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The reason Frank and the rest of the gang betray Nicky (aside from being ordered by the bosses off course) is because of the amount of heat Nicky brings on them, putting them in danger of being either arrested, or worse, whacked (there is also an off-comment that a couple of them had just completed prison terms, so they were actually arrested).
  • Money Slap: Nicky and his crew at one point confront a man about a debt. After he threatens him into giving the money he is owed, one of his henchmen literally slaps the man in the head with the money before they depart.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ginger. Being played by Sharon Stone, a natural fit. Heck, even in the dramatic scene where Ace ends up dragging Ginger across the floor to the closet to get her stuff… the emphasis of the camera is on her long, bare legs.
  • 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.
    • Ace grossly underestimates how much power County Commissioner Pat Webb has.
    • Ace’s banker does correctly point out to Nicky that risk was involved in the investments he made and that he doesn’t just get the money back if there’s a loss. But then begins to scoff and asks Nicky if he’s going to strong arm him. Nicky makes it very clear that yes, he will. It’s unknown how the situation got resolved, but Ace seems to think he’ll likely go to the authorities.
  • The Napoleon: Nicky Santoro. One, he's played by Joe Pesci in a Martin Scorsese film. Two, the guy he's based on, Tony Spilotro, was only 5'2".
  • Narrators: Ace and Nicky, as well as Nicky's eventual killer.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Averted: Nicky abuses the croupiers, who have to take it stoically.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Ace boasts of securing a thinly-disguised Siegfried and Roy ("Jonathan and David") for the Tangiers.
    • Ace and Nicky themselves, being based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro, respectively.
    • The sleezy State Senator played by Dick Smothers is a not-so-subtle Take That! to Senator Harry Reid. The license hearing even pulls verbatim from a similar incident between Reid and Frank Rosenthal:
      "Senator"/Harry Reid: Mr. Rothstein/Mr. Rosenthal is being very typical to this point. He's lying. The only time I was at the Tangiers/Stardust was when I had dinner with Barney Greenstein/Brian Greenspun.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Almost every major character in the movie is from Chicago. The scheme was set up and run by the Chicago Outfit. But everyone only ever refers to "back home" when talking about Chicago.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Done to Nicky and Dominick by Frank Marino and company, just before they're both Buried Alive.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Played with. Most of the characters from "back home" speak in their natural New York accents despite how their real-life equivalents are from Chicago. However, as stated above, it is never explicitly stated in the film where "back home" actually is.
  • Nothing but Hits:
    • The soundtrack, which covers the film's 1970s to 1980s timeframe and also includes several songs from the '40s to the '60s, is amazing.
    • As is the use of Bach's The Passion of St. Matthew in the opening and closing of the film.
  • One-Word Title
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The movie has many scenes of graphic violence, but the scene where Nicky and his brother are almost beaten to death with baseball bats is more like a scene out of a horror movie. It’s also one of the only scenes in the movie with no background music so all you hear is this sickening sound of aluminum hitting their bodies, their bones breaking, and Nicky sobbing while watching what’s happening to his brother as he waits for what’s about to happen to him. Watching dirt being thrown over him while he's still conscious takes the cake.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • When Ace waits for Nicky in the desert after suggesting to Andy Stone that Nicky should leave town, Ace muses he had a fifty-fifty shot of leaving there alive. As Nicky drives up, two songs on the film's soundtrack, Cream's "Toad" (used during Nicky's rise to power) and Georges Delerue's "Theme de Camille" (used during sorrowful moments in the movie) play over each other simultaneously in a 50/50 manner.
    • When Nicky narrates meeting Frankie and his crew in the sticks, his narration is interrupted when Frankie attacks him from behind, with Nicky's narration stopping with a yelp of pain as he's assaulted and murdered.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Nicky repeatedly stabs a guy in the neck with a pen after the man behaves rudely towards Ace.
  • Persona Non Grata:
    • Nicky gets his name in the 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.note 
    • 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: I had a couple of sand niggers out there. You know, Arabs.
    • The County Commissioner also calls Ace a "kike" alongside more subtle anti-Semitic comments.
  • 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 in the car's design, 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, whose own narration is interrupted by his being beaten to death, suggesting he was delivering it up to the point where he died.
  • The 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 Bernie Blue 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. Unfortunately for them, Nicky and his crew get even by shooting up their houses after getting stoned as revenge.
  • Professional Gambler:
    • Ace, bettor. So good that he makes the odds fluctuate when he places a bet.
    • The Casino attracts a fair share of Tricksters 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. In fitting with the theme of excess, 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, Cullotta was paid to reenact the same murder he committed in real life.
    • Oscar Goodman, who plays Sam's lawyer, was the lawyer who represented Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro (the inspirations for Sam and Nicky). From 1999 to 2011, he was also mayor of Las Vegas.
    • Real life Vegas entertainers Don Rickles and Dick Smothers have cameos as well, Rickles as casino manager Billy Sherbert and Smothers as a crooked Nevada state senator.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure/Only Sane Man: Stone. He still gets killed because It's the Only Way to Be Sure.
  • 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.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: After the slot machine scam, Sam asks Don a question about what the odds are of there being three jackpot wins in rapid succession. Sam is just trying to emphasize the fact that the odds are so incredibly long that the only way that it could happen is if the machines had been rigged, and Don should have realized that after the second win, but Don seems to think Sam actually wants the odds. He gives a vague answer that clearly indicates he has no idea, and his vague estimate is nowhere near close to the actual odds.
  • Right Under Their Noses: Early on, we follow an ordinary looking mafia bagman in a suit walk into the casino's counting room, fill up a briefcase with money and calmly walk out again. Nicky's narration informs us that what we've just watched was essentially a casino heist. A regularly scheduled heist authorized by the Mob. And everyone in the counting room is deliberately looking the other way to make sure they can maintain plausible deniability if anyone asks questions. This money is flown back to Chicago or Kansas City, where it's then distributed amongst the crime families according to their ownership shares in the companies that manage the casinos.
  • Roman à Clef: The events of the movie are indeed real but almost all of the names are changed for the story.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: The film charts the rise to prominence of Sam "Ace" Rothstein and Nicky Santoro in their efforts to control Las Vegas — the former running the Tangiers Casino successfully enough to gain accolades in the legitimate world, the latter enforcing mob rule on the streets. However, their mutual pride and personal issues eventually set off a chain of events that concludes with the end of Mafia-controlled Las Vegas, resulting in both men losing everything.
  • Rule of Glamorous: All the fancy clothes and glitz is part of the image of Vegas, so it all needs to look that way.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The titles sequence shows Sam's car exploding and him flying into the air before hovering over the flames in slow motion. This was meant to represent a soul going to Hell.
  • Run for the Border: John Nance manages to escape the FBI dragnet, leaves the country and finds a warm, secluded place in Costa Rica, thinking that no one would find him. But his son gets arrested for drugs and the rest of The Mafia, fearing that he will come out of hiding to make a deal, finds him and kills him.
  • 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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Subverted. The cowboy who puts his feet on the table at Ace's casino protests that he has "important friends" when he's escorted off the premises kicking and screaming for being a jerkoff. He does turn out to be a friend of Nicky's, although unfortunately for the cowboy, so is Ace, and he's a much more valuable friend to Nicky. Nicky is ready to lay the smackdown on the cowboy himself and forces him to apologize.
  • "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: Ace has one of his enforcers use a cattle prod to simulate a heart attack on a card 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.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Billy Sherbert's weapon.
  • Show Within a Show: Aces Hiiigh! a talkshow put on by Ace as a means of publicly humiliating the gaming commission.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The main characters devolve into this. They are small pieces in the chessboard that would do better by keeping a low profile, but their success eventually go to their heads.
  • 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 retired from office in 2017.
    • Lester plays one, that varies from sleazy to comical.
  • 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The closing montage of the old mob-era casinos being demolished for the modern-day resorts, with Bach's "Mathaus Passion" being overlaid over the gaudy new Vegas landmarks like the (now-defunct) MGM Grand lion head and the Luxor pyramid.
  • 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 flavor to the sandwiches prepared for the cops.
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: Billy tries to stare down Nicky, which fails spectacularly.
  • 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 back to Chicago. In turn, the skimmers are being skimmed and take offence from it, so they put an inutile supervisor to keep an eye on 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.
  • Stupid Crooks: Artie Piscano is the biggest example by openly talking about who is involved in the skimming operation in his own shop that's been bugged by the FBI, just so he can complain to his own mother.
  • 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 smart 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 Over the 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 tells her it's a line you don't cross.
  • Talk Show Appearance: Ace ends up hosting his own Vegas talk show in a bid to ingratiate himself into the community.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sam and Nicky start as complementary partners working under the Chicago 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.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Lots of them, most of them involving Nicky and his goons shooting people from behind, sneaking into cars and slitting their throats, beating one to the brink of unconsciousness before locking him in a car trunk (to drive to a remote location to continue the beating)… the list goes on. The most brutal of the overkill situations happen in the climactic scene. There, Nicky and his brother, Dominick, are lured to a remote field by mob bosses working for casino owner Sam "Ace" Rothstein, under the pretense that they'd work out a truce… but the Santoro brothers instead are brutally beaten to death, struck (literally) hundreds of times with bats until they were on the brink of unconsciousness, before Nicky is dumped in a shallow grave, atop Dominick's corpse (he's by that time deceased) and Buried Alive.
  • Trouble Entendre: The scene where Nicky delivers a veiled warning to leave to the two mob "balloon heads" who were trying to swindle the casino, by telling them that their supposed friend Carmine "left." "I think, you know, he went across the street, or somewhere else..."
  • Trunk Shot: Done when the police find 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.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Both Ace and Nicky are supremely guilty of this. They divulge their thoughts on the various events of the film and they always paint themselves as behaving reasonably while the general chaos of Vegas just keeps smacking them down. These narrations are almost always contrasted with scenes of their actions which are usually depraved, disgusting, violent, narcissistic, self-serving, and self-destructive. The message is that they're causing or contributing to many of their overarching problems while they claim to be the victim of others and of circumstance.
  • 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.
    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"
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Deconstructed with the relationship (and eventual marriage) of Ace and Ginger. Turns out that when "uptight" is a hard-core Control Freak and "wild" is impulsive to the point of self-destruction, it's just asking for a very serious tragedy.
  • 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 beautiful and socially loved wife. And for Nicky, it 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.
    • When Ace gets denied his license, he has a public meltdown, openly ranting about all the corrupt activity he's been providing for all the public officials. Immediately afterwards, he makes himself a local talk show host and continues his PR war with the politicians, unnerving his bosses. Even Nicky notes it's crazy.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Nicky attending his son's Little League games and watching his presentation in school. There's also an extended scene where Ace chats casually with two policemen about their families as Ginger pilfers Ace's house.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: They're all-powerful, but everyone of these supermen has a Kryptonite. Gene Siskel observed in his review, "Every tough character has a weakness in 'Casino'. Stone is De Niro's weakness and she in turn has a soft spot for her pimp, a low-life hustler played by James Woods." Nicky's weakness is… well, it's Joe Pesci. What else? Have you ever seen a Joe Pesci movie? His anger, temper, greed, lack of control… and the ultimate Napoleon Complex.
  • 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.
    • What happens to Billy Sherbert, Sam's friend and the actual casino manager, is also not revealed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The protagonists are usually at very vocal odds with each other, mostly because their Pragmatic Villainy is lacking.
    • 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 Chicago 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, because the mob themselves were making the streets safe for tourists and whales.
    • 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.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: Sam notes that the casino has a complex hierarchy consisting of multiple layers of security to not only keep an eye on the gamblers, but on each other as well to make sure nobody can cheat the house. This is also the reason why Nicky is sent to Las Vegas, as the bosses were counting on the fact that his mere presence would be enough to keep any unauthorized skimmers in line.
  • Worthy Opponent: Nicky admires Tony Doggs for refusing to give up his boss despite all the torture he takes and is genuinely pissed when he finds out he put up with all of it for some low life nobody.
  • 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.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When their marriage first begins to fray when Ginger tries to steal some of Ace's kidnapping stash to give to Lester, Ace tries to mend it by telling her she's better than what she perceives herself to be, stronger than he is, and could be a very powerful figure in the city. It doesn't take.
  • 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.

"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. Why mess up a good thing? And that's that."


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