It's just another bummer item in a bummer week, but Ray Liotta's death at the age of 67 was a nasty surprise. Tengrain predicted that everyone is going to go with Goodfellas, and I'm going to be predictable here. I'm neither much of a cinephile or much of a ranked lists guy, but if I were pressed, I'd have to say that Goodfellas is definitely in my top ten movies of all time...
Despite the brutal violence depicted in this movie about evil men, the film manages to have improbably comic moments, with Ray Liotta playing the role of straight man, as in this iconic scene, in which he literally plays off a funny guy:
Liotta-as-Henry-Hill also serves as Virgil, leading the audience deeper into the circles of Hell, introducing us to the outlandish cast of devils... expository voiceover isn't really supposed to work in films, but the script, and Liotta's delivery, was perfect:
Liotta's narration also made mundane scenes, such as the prison cooking scene, into highlights of the film... I'm not the only one who has recreated this sauce at home, using the 'very good system' for slicing the garlic:
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is stolen by Martin Scorcese's mom, with the line about Henry Hill 'not talking too much' being a nice bit of foreshadowing:
Ray's best scene in this movie of perfect vignettes is the climax, in which Henry Hill has a no-good, rotten day. He conveys a harried paranoia as he mixes ordinary tasks with his criminal enterprises:
The details are what make the scene for me, with a lovely amount of detail given to Henry's cooking 'Sunday gravy' for his brother, followed by an equally enticing dinner scene:
Liotta conveys a lot of emotions in this scene as a counterpart to his matter-of-fact narration: paranoia, frustration with his superstitious accomplice, glee at tricking his girlfriend, and finally, a wry social commentary about the police who finally arrest him. It's a bravura performance, perhaps my favorite scene in any movie.
Sure, Ray Liotta made other movies, and excelled in them, whether making emotional content for guys, or creeping out audiences. At least he went out in his sleep, while filming a movie, and didn't have to live out the rest of his life like an average nobody, like a schnook.