Celebrating 30 years since the premiere of Martin Scorsese's signature film, this chronicle of the making and afterlife of the film that introduced America to the real modern gangster features interviews with the film's major players and scene-by-scene analysis that seeks to understand the film's magic.
... reductions have led to the film’s mischaracterization, in certain circles, as a 'bro' movie—a masturbatory ode to guy’s behaving badly. Thankfully, critic Glenn Kenny’s extraordinary Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas offers a great deal more nuance than that on the film’s 30th anniversary ... Kenny displays a shrewd grasp of detail here. He doesn’t reduce Scorsese, De Niro, actor Joe Pesci, producer Barbara De Fina, Wiseguy author Nicholas Pileggi, real-life prosecutor Ed McDonald, and the various real-life mobsters that appeared in Goodfellas to the status of legend-hood. Rather, he portrays them as gifted, tormented human beings, centering on their professional processes. Along the way, Kenny foregrounds an oft-neglected element of Goodfellas’s greatness: its microscopic, docudramatic sense of atmosphere and character behavior ... Honoring fact as well as fiction, Kenny mounts an ambitious mixture of cinephilic essay and true-crime exposé ... Made Men has a fluid, intuitive structure that recalls, yes, Goodfellas, as Kenny merges an intricate analysis of the production with off-kilter anecdotes about Hill and the gangsters in his and the film’s orbit ... Kenny’s painstakingly reveals the rich, bottomless precision of Goodfellas ... Kenny doesn’t entirely grapple with...contradiction, though he brings Goodfellas down to Earth with his own unforgettable rendering of Hill as an over-the-hill schemer. No one else has seen this magnificent, agonizing, unmooring movie with such piercing clarity.
Glenn Kenny does not so much reflect on the film as re-create it with a shot-by-shot breakdown of granular specificity. Proceeding one scene at a time, he alternates between descriptions of on-camera action with copious behind-the-scenes details about the principal players ... The film’s fans will be tickled by Mr. Kenny’s trying out Henry’s ziti-with-meat-sauce recipe for himself ... Diligently documented here are the contributions of executive producer Barbara De Fina...cinematographer Michael Ballhaus...and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker ... Mr. Kenny has something to say about every aspect of the film, including its secondary (and tertiary) cast ... Where he gets bogged down is in the minutiae. Mr. Kenny’s constant evocations of specific shots...cry out for illustrative stills. Similarly, his breathless plot-point summaries have the flavor of a film novelization. This rigorous approach seems intended for those who have never seen the film, yet who but diehard fans would find such details engaging? There is lots of useful information here...but it quickly overwhelms ... Made Men feels curiously soulless—it’s lively and overstuffed ... Then again, Goodfellas at least has unanimity on its side: It’s everybody’s favorite Mafia movie, and doubtless its many partisans will crack open this book the next time they watch the film.
This is film writing with enthusiasm and purpose ... Across 400 intensely reported pages, Kenny traces the genesis, production, themes and legacy of Goodfellas with the exactitude of a scholar and excitement of a true Martin Scorsese acolyte. No detail is too small to discuss with fervent dedication and no participant given unfairly short thrift. Kenny talks to anyone and everyone involved in making the film, with the discussions expertly contextualized by a film writer who was in the thick of the scene at the time it was unfolding ... the author’s one-on-one with the master himself proves that there is just so much unknowable mystery to the art of filmmaking that maybe knowing we can never know everything is, well, knowledge enough.