“Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.” — Henry Hill
What is it about mob movies that we enjoy so much? Is it the gratuitous violence? Is it the men with no fear? Is it the stories? I’m really not sure, but I do know I love a good gangster tale. That being said, there are only a few mob films that I’d consider great…and Goodfellas is definitely one of them.
Back to Goodfellas in a moment, but first I should mention those great mob films. The Godfather saga is of course, without question, head and shoulders above the rest as we’ll learn much further ahead on the AFI list. A Bronx Tale is one of my favorites (is it better to be feared or to be loved?). Once Upon a Time in America makes the cut. Casino. Hmm, all of these flicks have one thing in common — Bobby De Niro! Maybe that’s what makes a good mob flick.
Goodfellas is a great mob film. It has all the ingredients. Violence. Made guys with funny names. The “F” word. De Niro. But really what makes Goodfellas so compelling is that it’s a true story. De Niro’s Jimmy Conway actually whacked all those people. Joe Pesci’s Tommy De Vito was a real sociopath. And Henry Hill turned state’s evidence on all of them and left for the witness protection program. Goodfellas, like most mob films, doesn’t have a happy ending. Maybe what we love about mob films is that the bad guys always get what’s coming to them in the end? Nah! We like the violence!
We also like the humor. Is there a funnier mobster than Tommy De Vito? Here’s an epic exchange after Tommy “accidentally” shoots Spider (Michael Imperioli) for telling him to fuck off and Jimmy eggs him on about not letting Spider get away with it:
Jimmy Conway: What’s the fuckin’ matter with you? What – what is the fuckin’ matter with you? What are you, stupid or what Tommy, Tommy, I’m kidding with you. What the fuck are you doin’? What are you, a fuckin’ sick maniac?
Tommy DeVito: How am I meant to know you’re kidding? What you mean, you’re kidding? You breaking my fuckin’ balls?
Jimmy Conway: I’m fuckin’ kidding with you! You fuckin’ shoot the guy?
Henry Hill: He’s dead.
Tommy DeVito: Good shot. What do you want from me? Good shot. Fuckin’ rat anyway. His family’s all rats. He’ll grow up to be a rat.
Jimmy Conway: You stupid bastard, I can’t fuckin’ believe you. Now, you’re gonna dig the fuckin’ thing now. You’re gonna dig the hole. You’re gonna do it. I got no fuckin’ time. You’re gonna do it.
Tommy DeVito: Who the fuck cares? I’ll dig the fuckin’ hole. I don’t give a fuck. What is it, the first hole I dug? Not the first time I dug a hole. I’ll fuckin’ dig a hole. Where are the shovels?
Tommy whacks an innocent kid and instead of feeling bad they argue about who is going to dig the hole. Classic. Goodfellas is loaded with dialogue like this and it’s so abhorrent you have to laugh. And we do. And we love Goodfellas because of it.
You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny? — Tommy De Vito
Next up: #91 Sophie’s Choice