The film Casino was released in 1995. It is based on a true story about a man named Frank Rosenthal. He managed four casinos in Las Vegas from the early 1970s to 1981. However, in the film, the names are completely changed, but the story is still the same. Sam “Ace” Rothstein is sent by his Chicago mob bosses to Las Vegas to overlook the Tangiers casino. The mob bosses send out Sam’s childhood friend and mob enforcer Nicky Santora to help watch out for Ace.
Sam meets and falls in love with chip hustler Ginger McKenna. They get married, reluctant to Ginger, and they have a daughter together. Problems within their marriage start to arise when Ginger’s ex-pimp is begging her for money, which she steals from Sam. Ginger then turns to alcohol and drugs to cope and their marriage turns into turmoil. Meanwhile, Nicky is having a hard time keeping himself out of the limelight because everyone knows how violent and murderous he is.
The FBI ends up wiretapping a grocery store where one of the lower mob bosses works and hears everything about how the casino is run and who is doing all of it. The police arrest all the mob bosses in Chicago while Sam is off the hook. Nicky is murdered and buried alive in a cornfield and Ginger ends up overdosing on heroin. The casino is shut down and a new one is built with a new corporation. Sam eventually retires to San Diego and becomes a sports handicapper, ending up “right back where I started.
The category that this film falls under is your typical “gangster” film. It follows the narrative that, “Movies about prisons and the Mafia are just two examples of hidden social worlds and societies that are surrounded by myth, that fascinate and intrigue” (Jewkes & Linnemann, 2017, p.172). While everyone is watching Ace and Nicky and how they skim the casino and murder all these people, they like to believe they know what it’s like to be involved in that kind of action. Everyone is fascinated by the idea of highly organized crime, but very little has firsthand knowledge of what organized crime is really about. People will have this misconstrued perception of how the Mafia and these mobsters operate in real life and these types of films help that faltered idea. Even though this movie was based on a true story, some parts and aspects were very dramatized for the sake of the movie and to draw in the audience.
There were a total of 17 acts of violence and the first occurrence was within the first 15 minutes of the film. This includes domestic violence between Ace and his wife Ginger and even their daughter. There are two women in the movie; Ginger, Ace’s wife, and Jennifer, Nicky’s wife. Ginger played the hustler wife who couldn’t get over her ex-pimp and was addicted to drugs and alcohol and Jennifer played the loving, carefree, and clueless wife. There are nine main characters men in the film; Ace, Nicky, Lester, Frankie, Andy, Phillip, Pat, Senator, and Remo. Lester is Ginger’s ex-pimp who occasionally steals her away to get ahold of Ace’s money. Frankie is Nicky’s right-hand man and is there to protect Nicky by any means possible. Andy is Ace’s right-hand man and helps him overlook the operations of the casino and makes things run smooth. Phillip is the CEO frontman of the hotel and he’s there to make sure the hotel portion goes okay. Pat is the County Commissioner and he tries to jeopardize Ace’s gaming license so he can’t run the casino. Senator is a frequent visitor to the casino but soon shows his true colors when he denies Ace his gaming license and lies about ever being in the hotel. Lastly, Remo is the Mafia boss that controls every single little thing at the casino from Chicago. There are no minorities included in this film. There are a total of 25 people murdered in this movie and the weapons include a pen, fists, a vice grip, guns, a baseball bat, and being buried alive.
In regards to how this film relates to the real world now, it shows how different mobs were back then and how gangs are right now. There aren’t very many mobs and mafias around at this time, however, they just progressed into what is now called gangs or crews. It goes to show how violent these so-called gangs have become and how much more widely known they’ve made themselves. True mobsters kept themselves hidden behind the shadows trying not to get caught. Nowadays, these gangs are being spread all over the news and all they want is the limelight on them. In the film, the mob bosses were upset with Ace because he decided to start his talk show and they didn’t want all that attention on him and their operation. They also weren’t very happy with Nicky when his name kept being brought up in the papers and the news about him murdering people. It was a different, more secretive time back then than it is now in the real world.
The police play a small but vital role in this film. The FBI tries to follow the casino’s every move, but they tend to fall short each time until they finally catch the bad guys. The technology they had back then was astonishing and so unreliable. If they were listening in on someone’s phone call, they had to click out every once in a while for a few minutes giving Ace and Nicky a chance to talk secretly without them knowing. Nowadays, we have the government listening in on every single call whether we’re on the phone or not. Also, Nicky always found a way to work around the police and even went as far as getting better, more expensive equipment to spy on them. It just goes to show how naive, clueless, and unadvanced the police were back then. However, in the end, the FBI got lucky when they bugged a grocery store and the manager spilled the beans on the whole casino operation and revealed he had a book of every illegal act that everyone committed.
In conclusion, this film is your typical old school “gangster” film and it follows the life of Sam “Ace” Rothstein and how he ran a mobster-controlled casino and skimmed the money for his mob bosses back home in Chicago. He juggled the casino, marriage, and friendships and they still managed to all come crashing down in the end. This film is very violent from the beginning and stays that way throughout without missing a single beat. It shows how different mobs were back then and how they are related to what everyone knows as gangsters. The film gives off an intriguing world that the audience is more driven to watch. People live vicariously through other people and what better person than Sam himself. The casino is a classic gangster film and it portrays everything great in an epic crime movie.