Goodfellas Essay, Research Paper
Martin Scorcese s GoodFellas, a 1990 film based on Nicholas Pileggi s Wiseguys, follows Henry Hill through his life in organised crime. The movie begins when he first enters the neighbourhood organised crime branch in Brooklyn, New York, and finishes when he leaves it to go into the FBI s witness protection program. Henry first becomes associated with the Mafia when he gets an after school job at the cabs office across the road, which happens to be run by the Mafia. His first run-in with the law is when he is caught selling cigarettes out of the boot of a car. This incident taught him two important lessons leading to his graduation into a true part of the Mafia: never tell on your friends and always keep your mouth shut. Even though Henry was now a part of the Mafia, he could never be made. That was the highest honour; you must be one hundred percent Italian to become a true member of the family. The way they worked was that the boss, Paul Sorvino (Paulie), would start a business or join a business as a partner and buy things on store credit, but never pay for it. They would sell everything they bought out the back door at a discount. Once they had borrowed all the money from the bank they could and were out of money they would burn the place down for the insurance. It did not matter that they sold products for less than they bought them for since it was all profit because they never paid for anything. The police never caused them any real trouble because the Mafia bribed them. Henry s main partners and closest friends are Tommy DeVito and Jimmy Conway, and they all work for Paulie. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew who they were and gave them respect. They never waited in lines and always got the best seats wherever they went. Violence surrounded them and people were killed just for saying the wrong thing. Tommy had a violent temper and often lost it after verbal arguments, which ended in brutal beatings or shootings. He beat a fellow mobster, Billy Bats, to death after he insulted him and he also shot a teenager, Spider, who was just getting into organised crime for talking back to him. Tommy ends up being shot in the back of the head by fellow mobsters as revenge for killing Billy Bats. Henry gets arrested for a job he did with Jimmy, beating up a guy that owed them money, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jail was not too bad of an experience for wise guys, as they were called; they had lobster, steak, and gourmet pastas for dinner. They paid off the guards to get whatever they wanted and Henry had his wife sneak in some goods. He is let out after four years, but continues to be involved in crime. He and Jimmy head a group that steals six million dollars in cash from the Lufthansa cargo terminal at Kennedy airlines. All the people involved in the robbery that could not be trusted to keep quiet were murdered. When Henry was released he also began dealing drugs on the side, selling cocaine out of his mistress apartment. He also began to do drugs as well. His life begins to get out of control and everyone around him is getting knocked off. Henry finally got caught and arrested for selling cocaine. In exchange for not being sent to prison he testified against his former partners, including Paulie. He was put into the FBI s witness protection program and forced to live a normal life. He no longer got everything he wanted with such ease, and had to wait for things just like everybody else.
Henry knew of the Mafia but was unaware of all of the privileges and pleasures that came along with its deviant status. He learns how to act and who to respect from the older members. Another step to entering organised crime that Becker points out are that once publicly labelled they are treated differently by society and act according to that label. When Henry becomes associated with the Mafia, people begin to treat him with respect, out of fear. He dresses nice, never waits in line to go to dinner, and gets the best seats when he goes to clubs. Henry had his drug deals on the side, and did not tell Paulie because he knew it would not be accepted. Paulie would probably have had him killed. They were also expected to keep secrets at all costs from law enforcement. The ever-present threat of being caught by law enforcement agencies is risky. A lot of the mobsters were sent to prison for conspiracy, murder, drug offences, etc. Deviant careers are often short-lived, seen by the numerous careers ended in death or by being sent away to prison. Henry was out and into a normal lifestyle while he was still relatively young. The instability and danger of mobster life is exemplified well in Scorcese s GoodFellas.