I love Las Vegas. I have been there twice and I plan to go back. I don’t know what it is exactly that I love about the city so much, maybe its the gambling, maybe its the food, maybe its the drinking. Or it could be the Cirque Du Soleil. What ever the reason I also love watching movies about the city. They come in all shapes and sizes and generally all paint the same picture of decadence and lavishness. But that is what the city is about, so here are my 5 favourite movies about the city.
5. Hard Eight (1996) – From the earlier works of the much acclaimed PT Anderson, this movie has little to no recognition in the mainstream. Which is too bad since it is an awfully good little film. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Phillip Baker Hall, Gwyenth Paltrow and John C. Reilly, before he started doing nothing but stupid comedies, this is a love story set against the anti-glitz of the regular casino lives. Okay, for full disclosure, this movie is actually set in Reno, but for the sake of the argument and for the fact that I want it on this list I am including it. Okay? When you make the lists, you can make the rules. This movies is not so much about the city as about trying to have a life in a place the encourages decadence. Gambling is everywhere and if you can figure out how to use it to your advantage, you can have it pretty easy. Thats what John C. Reilly learns when he is taken under the wing of old school gambler Phillip Baker Hall. He also falls in love with waitress/hooker Gwyenth Paltrow (who wouldn’t really?) and they get in a speck of trouble. Go rent it. It might also be under the name “Sydney” since that is how I had to find it on IMDB. Go figure.
4. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – This movie is the proof that not everything Nicholas Cage does is crap. And I have gone on record saying that I am fan of Cages work, and that fandom probably started with this movie. It is a heart wrenching look at the effects of alcohol and the desperation that it can drive people to. Cage plays an alcoholic who loses his job, moves to Vegas and decides to drink himself to death. There he meets Elizabeth Shue playing a hooker (what is it with vegas and hookers as characters?) and they start a relationship that can only go bad. Cage won an academy award for this and deservedly so. It is an awesome role that allows him to chase bad guys and shoot guns now, he has nothing to prove. At least not to me.
3. Oceans 11 (2001) - The first and in my opinion best of the Ocean movies. This movie is nothing but decadent fun. It is a heist movie at its core, but it also a buddy movie and a comedy. What I like best about this movie is that it looked like a lot of fun to make. When all the stars were approached with this script, how could they say no? Do I wanna hang out with George and Brad and Matt in Vegas for a few weeks? Hell Ya!! That friendship that they have translates onto the screen and it just adds to the fun of the film. And it also goes into detail about where the money goes after it leaves the casino floor. That is the part that I found to be the most interesting. So many doors and locks and bells and whistles. Is it real? probably not. But I like to believe it is. This film also shows the glamour of the vegas that not a lot of us get to witness but want to partake in.
2. The Hangover (2009) – This movie is the reason this list is being made. It came up in conversation and the rest of the list spilled out around it. This is probably the funniest movie ever made about Las Vegas. And what I love about it is the fact that it uses Vegas as a character in the film. They go to the casinos, the wedding chapel, the pool, the desert, and Mike Tyson’s house. You know, all the places you normally end up after a night out on the strip. Plus, most of it happens during the day and you rarely get to see that side of Vegas in film or TV (probably because all the lights looks better at night) Plus this is just a funny fucking movie and it helped catapult Zach Galifinakis to stardom. I will watch this movie again and again, just for the credits. Best credit sequence. Ever.
1. Casino (1995) – How can I do a list about Vegas with out getting into the whole reason why Vegas in there. The mob. And who better to direct a movie about the mob in Vegas then Martin Scorsese. And who better to start in a Scorsese Vegas mob movie then Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. I mean, c’mon, this movie is fucking gold. DeNiro and Pesci play mobster who move to Vegas to make there mark and get rich. DeNiro tries to be legit while Pesci goes off the rails, per usual. This is the perfect movie to show Vegas before the cleanse, and Scorsese paints such a vivid picture. I love this film. It is also the last good thing that Sharon Stone has ever done and she is great in this movie. But what is even better? James Woods playing Lester Diamond. Man that guy is so fucking good and being so fucking creepy. Love it.