Gritty, flashy, funny, cinematic gold, "GoodFellas" is Martin Scorsese's mob movie par excellence. The stylish, masterful filmmaking featured Scorsese's established palette of freeze frames and slo-mo, along with the much-discussed Steadicam shot that follows Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco across a street, through a backdoor, down a set of stairs, through a kitchen and into the dining room of the Copacabana nightclub.
Aside from its status as one of the longest single-take sequences in American film history, it's also a bravura set-piece that brilliantly illustrates the intoxicating appeal of being a made man. And it's just one of the many cinematic jewels offered up to the viewer in a movie studded with unforgettable scenes and brilliant performances. There's Robert DeNiro at the top of his game as the avuncular but ruthless Jimmy Conway and Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito, who demonstrates how to balance laughter and terror on a razor-sharp knife's edge.
Scorsese adapted "GoodFellas" from "Wise Guy," Nicholas Pileggi's account of the villainous career of Henry Hill (played in the film by Liotta), a guy who wanted in on the mob life from an early age. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," is the legendary opening line. That desire inexorably diminishes over the course of three bruising decades until our anti-hero must make a life-or-death decision between survival and betrayal.