Wiseguys whack people and get whacked in director Martin Scorsese's seminal gangster flick GoodFellas - finally getting a Special Edition DVD release after nearly 15 years. Ray Liotta stars as real-life mafia hood Henry Hill alongside Robert De Niro in this "tour de force" of filmmaking, dripping with blood and foul-mouthed dialogue. Cutting no corners in portraying both the brutal and seductive world of organised crime, it went on to bag several Oscar nominations. Sadly, only Joe Pesci took home the hardware for his terrifying turn as the psychotic Tommy DeVito. What, that amuses you...
As Ray Liotta reveals in the Getting Made featurette, Harry Hill became his obsession in the run-up to production - driving around town for hours just listening to tapes of the man narrating his story. According to Hill, De Niro went a step further, calling him up incessantly to ask "crazy questions" like "how Jimmy held his cigarette". But Hill is quick to add: "It was rewarding. I got paid for it." Disappointingly De Niro doesn't get much talk time except in archived footage. Likewise, Scorsese only appears in snippets.
Directors who were available for comment include Frank Darabont, Richard Linklater, Antoine Fuqua and, um, McG, but Made Men: The GoodFellas Legacy turns out to be little more than a vacuous montage of obsequious sound-bites - "brilliant!", "masterpiece!", "genius" - yada, yada, yada...
In case you thought it was all lazy days and cocaine nights, The Workaday Gangster reveals that killing people and robbing their money is actually pretty demanding work - and then you have to balance that with a healthy family life. Writer Nick Pileggi and actor Paul Sorvino are among those who recall "coming up" in a world of small-time crooks, with Scorsese making just a brief appearance - but looking 15 years younger!
And the award for shameless barrel-scraping goes to Paper Is Cheaper Than Film. This is a chance to compare dodgy thumbnail sketches, which Scorsese drew in the margins of his script, with scenes from the final cut of the movie. Unfortunately it only serves to demonstrate that Scorsese has the drawing ability of a five-year-old.
Yet again, Scorsese makes minimal contribution to the cast and crew audio commentary - a clumsy patchwork of generalisations that have little to do with what appears on screen. Thankfully, an alternative track featuring the real-life Harry Hill and former FBI agent Ed McDonald adds some genuine depth and insight into the events on which the film is based. "I still have nightmares," says a softly-spoken Hill, but it's difficult to gauge whether he truly regrets his criminal past. McDonald offers a wider view of the story and his memories are vivid - laughing as he recalls how a sharply-dressed Jimmy was often mistaken for a lawyer during his appearances in court.
Aside from the "cop and crook" commentary, there's nothing at all special about this Special Edition release. While actors like Ray Liotta, Paul Sorvino and Lorraine Braco are very forthcoming about their experiences of making the film, the absence of De Niro, Scorsese and Pesci (except for a few archived soundbites) is a glaring omission. Like the guy in the trunk, this is full of holes.