Breaking Even in Vegas

Over this routine plot (and Scorsese clearly regards it as routine) is draped all manner of anecdotes and subplots, along with Scorsese's swooping, diving, veering camera work.

The anecdotal episodes are often fascinating, the bravura stylings of the director are spellbinding, and veteran actors including Alan King, Kevin Pollak, Don Rickles, Frank Vincent, Tom Smothers and L.Q. Jones inhabit this milieu with effortless verisimilitude. As the leechlike pimp that Stone can't shake out of her heart, James Woods performs the considerable feat of surpassing himself in sleaziness (but can he do a Latvian accent?).

Casino has many strong individual scenes, but that main plot--the script is by Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, from a book by Pileggi--refuses to integrate itself into the movie's context, or even to hang together on its own terms. Stone has never looked more exquisitely sexy, yet she and both of her male co-stars fail to come to life as characters.

De Niro and Pesci are clearly reprising their roles from Scorsese's gangster masterpiece GoodFellas (also based on a book by Pileggi), but this time the conflict between them seems forced and false. Besides, the film is stubbornly overlong--nearly three hours is a long time for a film to ride the usual gangster-movie rise and fall, especially if we know it won't be landing anywhere new.

Casino: Directed by Martin Scorsese; with Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Alan King, James Woods, Kevin Pollak, Tom Smothers and L.Q.Jones. Rated R.

Leaving Las Vegas: Directed by Mike Figgis; with Nicholas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Laurie Metcalf, Richard Lewis, Stephen Weber and Valeria Golino. Rated

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