You step into a casino with your credit card or checkbook in hand, ready for a few hours of enjoyable, sensible gambling and maybe two rounds of cocktails. But hours later, you don’t know what time it is, how much you’ve spent or what happened to your money. It’s a casino trick: They design everything, from the music to the lights and physical design, to make it easy for you to lose track of time and spend more than you intended.

While other epic crime dramas glamorize the glamorous and hedonistic side of Las Vegas (including a torture-by-vice sequence that needed to be trimmed to avoid an NC-17 rating), Casino reveals the darker, more complicated history of the city, revealing its ties to mob bosses, Teamsters unions and Midwest mafias. It also lays bare the web of corruption that was centered in Las Vegas, with tendrils reaching out to politicians and even the local zoo.

Casino is marred by its lack of a likable protagonist. Sharon Stone is terrific as Ginger, a smart hustler who could keep Ace awake for days, but her character never coalesces into any sort of figurative authority figure. Similarly, De Niro and Pesci’s competing worldviews seem at odds rather than combining into some novel form of understanding.

Despite being almost three hours long, Casino is one of Martin Scorsese’s most lean and mean movies. He masterfully edits the film to keep it a taut thriller, and his casting choices are spot on (Ray Liotta is great as the enigmatic mobster Henry Hill). The sound design is superb and the soundtrack is a pulsing mix of rock and jazz that accentuates the film’s grittiness.