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Goodfellas: Special Edition

Based on the book "Wise Guy: Life in a Mafia Family" by Nicholas Pileggi about real-life mobster Henry Hill, Goodfellas begins with an exceptionally brutal killing as Hill (Ray Liotta) and his associates Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy De Vito (Joe Pesci) realize that the body in the trunk of their car isn't quite dead. So they pull over, open the trunk and finish the job — De Vito with a butcher knife and Conway plugging the dying man with several bullets. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," begins Liotta's voiceover as Hill. "To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States." Starting out as an errand boy for the local mob, Hill rises in the ranks by selling stolen cigarettes, working as an enforcer, and eventually becoming a made man. Hill's wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco) adds her voice to the story as well, giving the film a resonance that most mob movies lack. Through Karen, as with Henry, we're seduced by the glamour of mob life, even if we grimace over the way she justifies the escalating violence and criminal activity of their lifestyle. As Henry's story progresses, however, Scorsese moves from the dreamy quality of a Godfather-like fairy take into rougher, nastier territory. By the film's end, we loathe the life and the characters that were so charming and enviable at the start of the film — that Scorsese should ever be accused of glamorizing Mafia life is dead wrong, as anyone watching Goodfellas will leave the film knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the last thing they should ever want to do is become a gangster. Warner's two-disc special edition DVD replaces an earlier, bare-bones "flipper" release. The new digital transfer in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) is very good, richly saturated with beautiful contrast, although some scenes (the nightclub scenes in particular) seem a bit murky. And, unlike the previous DVD, all 145 minutes are on one dual-layered side, so you won't need to flip it over mid-film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (in English or Spanish, with French, English and Spanish subtitles) is solid, if unimpressive. Disc One offers the film with two optional commentaries, plus a menu listing the many awards that the film won. Disc Two features a handful of extras, including a 30-minute making-of featurette, "Getting Made," which offers new interviews with Bracco, Pileggi, and Liotta, plus 1990 interviews with De Niro, Scorsese, and Pesci, plus some fascinating behind-the-scenes footage of Scorsese directing. Also on board is "The Workaday Gangster" (8 min.), which focuses on the realities of mob life, "Made Men: The Goodfellas Legacy" (13 min.) with sound bites from a number of directors, including Richard Linklater, the Hughes Brothers, and John Favreau, waxing rhapsodic about the film but offering little insight, and the genuinely interesting "Paper is Cheaper Than Film," which illustrates how Scorsese's little stick-man sketches in his scripts translate to thoughtfully planned shots on film. Theatrical trailer, dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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