When you enter a casino do you get that tingly feeling all over? Do the sounds of the slot machines light a fire in your soul that makes you go “ HERE! Take my money for the infinitesimal chance that I might come out richer!” No? Is it just me? Should I go to some “meetings?” Damn, ok.
I probably go to a casino once a year, if that, but I do get my fix from movies (in fact, movies cater to many of my vices that I don’t dare indulge in in the real world), and the occasional online casino. Stop looking at me like that... I have a slight blackjack addiction. Casinos are akin to their own character in many films, being the perfect setting for many plot devices. They set the stage for financial ruin and success, corruption, greed, social status, crime, business, drinking and debauchery, shenanigans, the list goes on.
So which casino flicks have captured my heart? Which have made the best use of casinos for storytelling? I thought you’d never ask.
Jane Austin’s Mafia! (1998)
Let’s start off with a spoof. All y’all Cin-Obs know we love a good parody, and this one encapsulates almost all of the mafia flicks we know and love with a tone of light-hearted mockery and ricidulousness.
This whole movie is not set in a casino, but there is an unforgettable montage involving one that sticks in my memory. Whenever I lose money gambling, I think back to the scene where people put their money on the table and the dealer just goes “no sorry, you lost” and takes it. Or when people just give up and mail their money in. Or the scene in the back room where the employees are sucking up the money with giant vacuums because they just can’t handle the volume of incoming cash.
When things go bad for the owner, there’s also a great scene that should deter you from cheating. And it involves a cattle prod.
I know the real movie snobs will want to bash my skull in for placing Mafia! over Casino (1995) but I just had to. When I think of casinos my brain first goes to fun and comedy, then after to dark depressing real-life scary stuff.
This Scorsese flick is renowned for the actors’ performances, and it also epitomizes the concept of the Casino as a character in the film. It’s an inside look on the life of a casino boss, and you can’t help but feel that this is probably fairly accurate. That’s probably because it’s based on real events and real people. Which blows the mind when you think about the violence and corruption taking place. Even though the Sam Rothstein character (played by De Niro) is a total baddie crime guy, you sympathize with him. You want him to do well. You feel sorry that he has to deal with that putz Nicky (Joe Pesci).
Filming took place in the Riviera in Las Vegas, so you’re not looking at a sound stage. Regardless of the drugs, the mob presence, and murder, you can still feel the glitz and glamour that is the casino experience. After all, no matter who’s running the show behind the scenes, a casino still represents the hope of striking it rich. It can happen to anyone. It usually doesn't, but hey - it could happen.
Chantale here, ready to discuss some classic casino movies. I started thinking about all the flicks I love that involve gambling. My list was long, then I realized that it wasn't so much about gambling, but more about the fact that they were set in Vegas. I've had a love affair with Vegas since I was a child. What? Don't all kids dream about Sin City? Stop looking at me weird. I always had a thing for Vegas growing up - perhaps it was bright lights, or the magicians, either way, I loved it and still do.
One of my all-time faves is Ocean's 11 (2001).
Now please don't judge me when I tell you that I have not actually seen the original 1960 version with some of the greats. I will see it one day, but for now, my heart pitter patters for the remake. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounds up his gang of charismatic, multi-talented crooks for the biggest heist any of them have ever seen. Robbing 3 casinos at once is not easy feat and requires 11 skilled criminals. I loved every one of them! We had Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) - pickpocket extraordinaire, Basher (Don Cheadle) - blower-upper extraordinaire and Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) - Master of disguise. Honourable mench goes out to Andy Garcia who played Terry Benedict. Well done Andy, you played one very unlikeable arsehole. Such a great flick with a perfect amount of humour sprinkled throughout. SPOILER ALERT - Every time I watch it, I'm so excited and moved that they pull it off in the end. Fuck Benedict.
Another favie of mine is Vegas Vacation (1997).
Clark Griswold is one effing loveable character I will watch time and time again. Some Cin-Obs may argue that this Vacation flick was a disappointment, but I will have to disagree. I would take Vegas Vacation over European Vacation anyday. I don't care if the Griswold kids change every movie. It don't matter. As long as we have Clark, Helen and cousin Eddie, we're all good.
Where to start? It's an hour and a half of shenanigans in the city that never sleeps. Clark immediately gets the gambling bug and is on a mission to lose all his money from the get go. After losing their life savings, Clark borrows money from cousin Eddie (that they have to dig up all over Eddie's desert property) and they visit the most ridiculous casino eva. Games include 'Pick a Number Between 1 and 10', 'Coin Toss', 'War', 'Rock, Scissors, Paper', and 'Guess Which Hand'. Ahhh classic. We also saw Helen fall for Wayne Newton, and Rusty Griswold (played by Ethan Embry.. swoon) assume his new identity as Nick Papagiorgio. Awesome. This movie, in my mind at least, does not disappoint in the Vacation series. If you haven't seen it, I do recommend.
There are so many great Vegas/casino/gambling movies out there. Are the Cin-Obs surprised by our top picks? Probz not. You know what we like!