Mary Conti’s review published on Letterboxd:
**Part of the Best Picture Project**
"As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster"
Who didn't at least at one point in their life? It's a life worthy of envy. You're treated like a king until the day you get pinched for life or end up in a ditch. You never really joined because you knew the scary consequences (that and it's essentially a closed club), but you watched from the outside, whether through documentaries, movies, and maybe even right outside your own window.
Which is what makes the Italian mafia different from the other mafia in Scorsese's unofficial trilogy (Wolf of Wall Street is just as integral to the overall story as Casino is). It's the club that will treat you like a king, but it's essential closed nature makes for higher consequences. There's a system of trust, and betraying that trust is costly.
Scorsese has many different periods in his career, yet each one starts off with a sort of stylistic revision of his self, and in Goodfellas he finds himself combining his 70s expressionist period with his 80s impressionist self into a wild hybrid of a ride. It's a film that gets into the life of the Italian mafia, specifically the lower crews, and manages to keep enough distance to show the reality. It's a film where we can one minute be enjoying the highs of the life only to have reality shatter it immediately with a violent death. "Whip pans, zooms, tracking shots, and montages" would be a good alternate title.
Which makes for the main difference between this film's thesis (as well as Casino's, the artistic high point in the trilogy) and The Wolf of Wall Street. The criminals in Goodfellas never really hurt anyone that doesn't have it coming to them or at least isn't taking a risk in the first place. In the Wolf of Wall Street the criminals that really hurt people never see the punishment they deserve, and there's no trust because it's an open club.