Hole in the Desert

The final moments of Casino show old Vegas being torn down. Implosions send once grand buildings to rubble. Sam Rothenstein (Robert De Niro) opines about the history within them. Even after his life shatters because of crime and corruption, the murders and the divorce, Vegas is where he belonged. Not the new Vegas, the corporately owned Disneyland for adults – rather, classic, iconic, dream-like Vegas, no matter the self-destruction it brought.

Rothstein’s mistake, his one singular mistake, is trusting the wrong person. In noir fashion, Sharon Stone takes the femme fatale role, amplifying Casino’s inherent greed parable. After marrying Rothstein, he gives her the only key to a safety deposit box, holding diamonds and cash that continually gnaw at their relationship. Greed is never satisfied.

Casino deals with the mob… but it’s one of the least mob-centric films of Scorsese’s lot

A “morality car wash” is how Rothstein describes vintage Vegas in the opening narration. It fits. Casino deals with the mob (hardly a scene passes without them), but it’s one of the least mob-centric films of Scorsese’s lot. Rather, Casino treats mafia as an effect of corruption rather than a cause. Money trades hands briskly, well out of state lines and into the heartland; it’s never clear if even those closest to the cash flow know where each dollar goes. Most spend their time looking another direction.

There’s not a singular honest character in this story. Either they see themselves as honest – like Rothstein – blame others for their crimes – Stone – or embrace their identity – Joe Pesci’s Nicky Santoro. That triangle collapses, of course, because no one can agree on what’s needed to maintain a veil of innocence; excess is defined differently by each.

Eventually, this breeds arrogance. For Santoro who spends his life ruthlessly beating people, he doesn’t see his own end coming. Riotously entertaining as Pesci is in this part, he’s cautious to not make Santoro empathetic. He deserves his cruel, grisly end. It’s relief to know his type no longer runs Vegas.

When Casino ends, it’s not clear what happened to Rothstein’s daughter. Last seen, she’s stashed with neighbors while her parents fight. Stone’s character moved in with junkies and blew her fortune in ‘80s cocaine, and Rothstein seemingly leaves his kin behind in Vegas after an attempted car bombing, returning to the only trade he knows. Although Rothstein defends and protects his daughter, keeping her means keeping more money; that’s what matters to him. Same goes for the rest of these characters, and that’s pure Vegas.


Universal’s 4K scan gives Casino a gorgeous new visual coat. Cinematography aims for vintage flair, meaning blooming and haze. With the added horsepower afforded to UHD, that’s held in check sans artifacts or noise. Source grain appears organic, flawlessly clear in maintaining the source’s integrity.

Now Casino comes with HDR too, enlivening the already vibrant Vegas strip. Strands of light blossom from the tech, and even interiors glow. Sparkling dresses shimmer under light. On the flipside, shots of the mob boss meetings against pure black reach outstanding depth, losing no shadow details in the process. It’s a significant boost, also drawing out color via increased saturation. Enlivened primaries push the blue of De Niro’s suit as he meets a local rep, while the casino’s interior reaches for every hue.

Plus, the jump in resolution draws detail, accentuating wide shots with hundreds of tables. Desert scenes give Vegas full natural glory, and the city’s design takes on new life. Zoomed in, facial definition picks up, resolved perfectly thanks to the added resolution. Picking up on suit detail matters too, giving each character an upscale class.


The primary boost from this DTS:X track comes from the soundtrack. It’s vibrant and filling. Plus, a touch of low-end expresses possible range.

Casino deals in dialog though, center focused, while narration spreads across the fronts. Small slivers of ambiance when on the casino floor lacks distinction, if still notably filling surrounds. Shoot-outs listlessly use stereos, and a few explosions rush toward positionals. Otherwise, mundane.


Via UHD, the moment-to-moment commentary/chat brings in a number of speakers to discuss the film, offering an array of perspectives over the three hour runtime. The rest remains on the included Blu-ray. Nothing is new. Deleted scenes also offer some raw footage from the set over their three minutes. A report from NBC looks into the real world events for 14-minutes, and a History Channel documentary does the same for 44-minutes. U-Control options produce some pop-up material during the film.

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Less a direct mob story than a real world parable about greed, Casino unravels at a brilliantly deliberate pace.

User Review
4.8 (5 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 48 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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