Director Martin Scorsese has returned to the corpse-littered terrain of 1993's GoodFellas and made a companion film with the same two principal actors and screenwriter (Nicholas Pileggi). Casino is more ambitious and, thanks to De Niro's punch-drunk gravitas, more impressive. De Niro plays a New York City bookmaker sent by the Mob to run a Vegas casino. He rakes in the dough, but the Mob bosses sense something is unreliable and tell Pesci, who has his own dark ambitions, to keep his eye on things.
The first half of Casino, which emphasizes the intrigues that make up the day-to-day operations of De Niro's kingdom, spins and clicks with the smoothness of a well-oiled roulette wheel. Casino is worth seeing for De Niro's powerful performance alone. The same doesn't apply to Stone as the Vegas prostitute De Niro takes as his bride. In her early scenes, got up in high-'70s dresses, she's stunning, but as she slides into alcoholism and a desperate affair with Pesci, she becomes shrill. The movie is set up with De Niro on one side, demonic Pesci on the other, and Stone binding the two together. She's a thin rubber band, stretched too taut and—pwink! (R)