While the casino is often depicted as a lurid place filled with gaudy decor, games and stage shows, it’s important to remember that at its core, a casino is just a gambling hall. And it’s the house that always wins. That’s why casinos offer so many luxuries to lure in players, including free food, drinks and rooms at nearby hotels. They have to, because the odds are that a player will lose money in the long run.

While Casino’s violence reaches epic proportions, Scorsese never lets it get over the top or cheapen the film. Even when he stages the torture-by-vice sequence and the brutal baseball bat beating, it’s all judicious. In fact, it reflects the characters’ worldviews, which are founded on a foundation of greed and corruption.

As the movie progresses, it’s clear that Ace and Nicky (Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci) are essentially indistinguishable, both being mobster-types who are unable to separate their emotions from their money making activities. This is evident in the way they both blindly fall for prostitute Ginger (Sharon Stone) who also contributes to their eventual downfall.

Casino is a tense, gritty, and at times harrowing drama about betrayal and violence that leaves no room for heroism or sympathy. But while it may be a tale of crime and avarice, the movie manages to capture the essence of Las Vegas’ seedy culture in all its glory.