This was part of the trinity. I saw this, Jarmusch’s Mystery Train and the Coens’ Miller’s Crossing at roughly the same time. They all went to NYU Film School so I figured I would too. So, basically, I have this movie to blame for not going to a real college and having a real job and actually having more than eighty-nine cents in my bank account. Still — it is a fantastic movie. Watching it again (for the 20th time, probably, but the first time in years) I was amazed at how much of the cliched Robert De Niro impression actually come from this movie — a movie he made well on into his career. The furrowed brow, the stammering, the “heh”s — it all started here. Sadly, this movie spawned a thousand copycats (including Scorsese’s own Casino, which is basically the same exact movie — a good movie. . .but the same movie) and also pretty much invented swaggering dick 718 faux gangster machismo which is a bit of a neauseating thing if you live in New York City. There’d be no Victoria Gotti reality TV show 14 years later if there was no GoodFellas. There’d also be fewer car commercials set to classic rock. Scorsese pretty much nailed the pastiche-of-pop with this film (inventing the practice, really, with Mean Streets in the early 70s) and now, frankly, with very few exceptions, any movie that includes any kind of non-diagetic music on its soundtrack smacks of self-indulgence. Still — you can’t fault a brilliant work for its unfortunate legacy. GoodFellas is genius — one of the best films ever made — and connects with me on a deeply personal level. Unlike, say, De Palma’s fun but distant crime opera Scarface, which some hold in equal regard. Scarface is spectacle, GoodFellas is character-driven storytelling. But if I was coming of age in 1983 when Scarface came out maybe I’d be singing a different tune . . .
Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.
He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.