Aside from the first two Godfathers, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of modern gangster movies. The film's enormous artistic merits, bold blueprint, and lasting influence on filmmaking are so fully-realized and evident that it's not surprising to see it on countless short lists of top American films, regardless of genre. The violent saga of Goodfellas spans several decades depicting the life of mobster Henry Hill, Jr. (Christopher Serrone as a teenager, Ray Liotta as an adult) who, along with friends Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), rises in the ranks of organized crime before his addictions, bad habits, and paranoia lead to a sobering downfall. It obviously doesn't serve as glamorization of said lifestyle...but, like Hill's passionate and fiery wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco), we're swept up in all the excitement before good judgment gets the better of us.
Singing the praises of Goodfellas was almost redundant two decades ago; by now, it's basically futile. Routinely given top marks by critics and audiences alike, this sprawling adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy represents the peak of Scorsese's hugely influential output as a director (most often alongside Raging Bull and Taxi Driver). Everything clicks in Goodfellas from start to finish: the characters, though completely unlikable from a moral perspective (and that goes for pretty much everyone inside Henry's insulated bubble), are uniformly magnetic. Scene after scene impresses while dragging us deeper down into their world, the classic rock-driven soundtrack hits all the right notes, performances are basically flawless, and the first-rate editing---especially during the film's feverish third act---makes Goodfellas an absolute joy to pick apart and appreciate. As a whole, Goodfellas is as bold and fully-realized as almost any film made during the last few decades and, not surprisingly, hasn't aged one bit in the last 25 years.
After Warner Bros.' non-anamorphic "flipper" DVD came out back in 2000, Goodfellas has had no shortage of double-dips on home video, released as either stand-alone packages or as parts of multi-disc themed collections. Not surprisingly, each edition has gotten slightly better while still coming up short in some regard, though the cycle appears to have been broken with Warner's new 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray; it rights a few wrongs (finally updating the A/V quality, for starters) and keeps just about everything that made past editions enjoyable in the first place. While this elaborately packaged two-disc release carries a high price tag for a catalog title, anyone who's gladly owned more than one edition of Goodfellas won't mind ponying up for what appears to be the definitive edition.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Once again presented in a slightly opened-up 1.78:1 expansion of its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio---a Warner Bros. tradition---Goodfellas looks vastly different than both identical Blu-rays released in 2007 (a single-disc edition, also included in the studio's Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary) and 2010 (a 20th Anniversary Digibook). Newly scanned at 4k resolution from the original camera negative and approved by Martin Scorsese to boot, this 25th Anniversary Edition serves up a much stronger level of image detail, deeper blacks, and a striking amount of film grain without any blatant digital manipulation. But I said it "looks vastly different" for a reason: the color palette is much colder and substantially desaturated at times, while the film's overall darker appearance gives it a less inviting presence overall. Viewers like myself, who have undoubtedly viewed Goodfellas in previous formats, might be initially taken aback by one of more of these "changes"...but once you get used to the new appearance, you'll most certainly appreciate the substantial upgrades in clarity, impact and texture that it brings to the table.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures in this review are decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.
The upgrades continue with a new lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that trumps the previous Blu-ray and DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Goodfellas has always packed a punch in the audio department, deftly balancing crisp dialogue, dynamic music cues, subtle (and not-so-subtle) background noises, and just about every other detail in its vivid, tightly-controlled sonic palette. The narration definitely seems mixed a bit louder this time around, but not unnaturally so. While rear channel activity and LFE don't represent a major improvement over previous releases, on the whole Goodfellas sounds a great deal clearer and more refined than all previous releases. You'll probably hear a few details that you missed in previous years, which should please die-hard fans of the film who owned one of rmoe of its countless home video editions. Roughly a dozen Dolby Digital mono and stereo dubs are also included during the main feature (including French and Spanish), as well as nearly two dozen sets of subtitles (including English SDH).
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Though predictably low on style points, Warner Bros.' interface is easy to navigate and loads quickly. Sub-menus are included for setup, chapter selection, and bonus features on both discs. The packaging is similar to Warner Bros.' Ultimate Gangsters Collections
; this two-disc release is housed in a dual-hubbed eco-keepcase (ugh), along with a thin hardcover Companion Book
and a handsome slipcover. It's an impressive package but unwieldy for a single-disc release, even if Goodfellas
' formidable reputation practically demands
the extra weight. Also tucked inside the keepcase is a Letter
from Martin Scorsese and an HD Digital Copy Code
for this newly remastered edition.
The only new extra on board is the star-studded, lukewarm "Scorsese's Goodfellas"
[29:53], a retrospective featurette that includes brief comments by the likes of Martin Scorsese, actors Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Lorraine Bracco, screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and Scorsese regular Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci are also advertised on the back cover, but don't actually appear). This is a casual, mildly informative, and occasionally interesting chat, but there's very little here beyond the standard production stories and discussion about the film's monumental impact and legacy...but to be honest, it's mainly because Goodfellas
has been talked about to death over the last 25 years. It's still worth a once-over, but keep your expectations in check.
Aside from that, we get everything from the relatively well-rounded 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray; the best of the bunch are still the excellent Audio Commentaries on Disc 1, while everything else is moved to a second Blu-ray this time around (including the feature-length documentary "Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film" [1:45:42], which was previously just dumped on a separate DVD). The recycled extras also include four short to mid-length Featurettes, a handful of gangster-related Warner Bros. Cartoons, and the film's Theatrical Trailer.
What's not to love about Goodfellas? Unless you've got a really low tolerance for swearing or the examination of criminal life, anyone with a pulse can bear witness to its excellent performances, aggressive charisma, frivolous rule-breaking, perfect soundtrack, and endless rewatchability. Sure, it's spawned a legion of imitators during the last 25 years, but this epic tale of power, pulp, and paranoia still packs a punch and remains one of the great director's greatest works. Warner Bros. 25th Anniversary Edition delivers what most of their double dips don't (including the last one): an actual A/V upgrade and a new bonus feature. Only the former is worth getting excited about, though; otherwise, this is pretty much the same thing in fancy packaging, and the price tag's high enough to scare off casual fans and newbies alike. But it's still worth every penny, because Goodfellas never gets old. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, shining shoes like mirrors, and writing in third person.