Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a sports handicapper and Mafia associate, is sent to Las Vegas to run the Teamsters-funded Tangiers Casino on behalf of several Midwest Mob families. Taking advantage of lax gaming laws allowing him to work at the casino while his gaming license is still pending, Sam becomes the Tangiers’ boss and doubles the casino’s profits.
Impressed with Sam’s work, the bosses send Sam’s friend, enforcer Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and his crew to protect Sam and the business. Nicky, however, begins to become more of a liability than an asset. His violent temper quickly gets him banned by the gaming board from every casino, and his name is placed in the black book. Nicky then gathers his own crew and begins running unsanctioned shakedowns and burglaries.
Sam meets and falls in love with a hustler, Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone). Despite Ginger’s reluctance, they soon conceive a daughter, Amy (Darla House, Erika von Tagen) and marry. Their relationship begins to deteriorate when Sam and Nicky catch Ginger giving money to her former boyfriend, a con man named Lester Diamond (James Woods).
Sam also makes an enemy in Clark County Commissioner Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones). Webb retaliates by pulling Sam’s casino license application from the backlog, forcing Sam to have a license hearing, while secretly arranging for the gaming board to reject the license.
Meanwhile, Ginger’s alcoholism and cocaine addiction anger Sam so much that he kicks her out of the house. She returns, on Sam’s condition that she carry a beeper on her for Sam to contact her whenever he must. Ginger turns to Nicky for help in getting her share of her and Sam’s money from the bank, and they begin an affair.
Sam reaches his limit with Ginger when she ties Amy to her bed to have a night with Nicky. Sam confronts Ginger in the restaurant and disowns her. She turns to Nicky, but he has washed his hands of her as well. The next morning, Ginger goes to Sam’s house, creates a disturbance, and uses the distraction to take the key to their bank deposit box. She takes some of the savings, but is then arrested by FBI agents.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Year of Release: 1995
Character to watch: Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?