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Movies about the mob have been part of cinema history for decades, but never was life as a mobster made to look more glamorous and more alluring than it was presented in Martin Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas, a sweeping cinematic epic that spans several decades in the lives of a select group of men working their way up through the social strata of the syndicate.

The film opens on the childhood of one Henry Hill (a real person BTW, who is now in the Witness Protection Program), a teen who started his career with the mob as an errand boy and was paid handsomely for his efforts. It's a little unsettling the way the mob draws Henry in and makes what he does seem so glamorous and exciting, but Nicholas Pileggi's screenplay brilliantly shines light on the allure of life in the mob. Even though we know it's wrong, the way the director and screenwriter make it completely understandable. There's something rather pathetic about the fact that when a teenage Henry is arrested for the first time, the fact that he keeps his mouth shut about his employers, makes him the new hero of this dangerous inner circle and that he will be protected by them for life.

The inner circle includes a couple of career mobsters Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci) who take the adult Henry (now played by Ray Liotta) under their wing and the sometimes conflicted emotions Henry goes through when he realizes some of the things that are required of him. The movie's opening is proof of this as we see Jimmy, Tommy, and Henry in a car with a body in a trunk which they are preparing to bury somewhere in New Jersey. Despite the rampant ugliness that is a part of this life, the perks seem to outweigh the ugliness for Henry until he is in so deep that he can't get out, to the point where his job has direct correlations to the Don, Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) who treats Henry like a son until he learns that Henry has branched out into his own side business that has threatened the primary business and everyone involved.

Scorcese has created a world that looks impossible to resist and it is very easy to understand how Hill got pulled in, and as we all know, once you're in, you never get out. Eventually, Henry was in so much trouble, his only alternative to being whacked was selling out.

The cast is absolutely perfect, led by De Niro as Conway and a star-making performance by Ray Liotta as Henry Hill. Liotta is sexy and charismatic as Hill and no matter what Hill does, Liotta always makes the viewer sympathize with Henry, no matter what he's going through. Joe Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his outrageous performance as Tommy, which produces equal doses of laughs and chills, whether he is amusing cronies with wild stories, beating the crap out of old buddies, or borrowing a shovel from his clueless mom to help bury a body in the trunk of his car while he is at mom's dinner table eating pasta. Lorraine Braco received a supporting actress nomination for her fiery performance as Karen, Henry's wife who turns a blind eye to what her husband is doing because the perks for her seem to be even better than the perks Henry gets. Paul Sorvino commands the screen as Big Paulie and Catherine Scorsese (the director's mother) is adorable as Tommy's mother.

Scorsese's cinematic eye for violence and shock is in full view here, creating a glamorous look at mob life that doesn't minimize the violence and ugliness that comes along with it. The art direction and divine musical score also deserve mention here. The film and Scorsese were both robbed of Oscars...in a word, a masterpiece. 9/10