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Does the closing sequence of Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990) adhere to the narrative and generic conventions of the gangster film?

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Louise Smith FS1 Coursework: The Macro Analysis Narrative and Genre conventions in the gangster genre 'Does the closing sequence of 'Goodfellas' (Scorsese, 1990)' adhere to the narrative and generic conventions of the gangster film? Martin Scorsese's epic 'Goodfellas' (1990) is in some aspects a classic gangster movie using many generic and narrative conventions of the gangster genre throughout the film. Nevertheless Scorsese's masterpiece challenges the audiences' expectations of the gangster genre by showing the rise and fall of gangster Henry Hill and his crime and blood family in a diverse and inventive way that infuses with the subject of crime with a huge amount of realism and formal inventiveness. The beginning of the final sequence starts with the last caption of the film- 'The Aftermath' this emotive inter title suggests an expected resolution. After the inter title the frantic pace of the previous sequence abruptly stops- bringing our anti-hero Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) and the audience to a sudden narrative halt. Contrasting to the recent excitement where Henry juggles with the selling of guns, cooking dinner for his large family and snorting huge amounts of cocaine, we are removed from viewing the generic dangerous life of a gangster, fuelled by illegal substances and far fetched arrangements and deals (that are bound to back fire), back to the normality of Henry's arrest and ending up in a police station. ...read more.


The switch from non- diegetic to diegetic surprises and intrigues the audience; we understand that the memories and sequences we have viewed have been from Henry Hill's subjective selective expressionistic viewpoint. Here we realise that we have only seen what Scorsese wanted the character of Henry Hill to divulge to the audience or the courtroom full of people. This interesting retrospective narrative viewpoint clearly does not adhere to the to the narrative and generic conventions of the classic gangster film where the audience usually views the gangster's live from the classic unrestricted narrative governed by verisimilitude in which the story is simply shown to the audience in a linear chronological narrative structure. By showing only a restricted narrative viewpoint we can see how Scorsese has portrayed gangsters- as being devious and tuned into the skill of deceiving people but also as being humans who make mistakes and end up bored and alone in a down beat contrast to the power and authority they once had. From diegetic back to non- diegetic, Henry narrates the final part of his story, he states to the audience that he is 'an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook'. ...read more.


In some respects, Goodfellas has the characteristics of a classic gangster movie with a large number of typical generic elements employed in the film from iconic guns and flashy suits to the actual plot tracking the rise and the fall of gangster Henry Hill. However, Scorsese challenges the audiences' expectations and views of how we perceive the typical Italian American gangster by experimenting with narrative structure, voice-overs, iconography and realism. Scorsese blatantly exploits how our only knowledge of gangsters comes from what we see in movies by leaving the ending ambiguous and in some ways un-resolved. This is distinctly different to the usual generic climatic endings in gangster movies. The ending is not dramatic and shocking like the melodramatic, climatic ending in 'Scarface' (De Palma, 1983) nor is it a conservative yet equally as shocking ending where harmony has tried to be restored by the brutal killing of the anti hero- as in 'The Public Enemy' (Wellman, 1931). Henry Hill has been stripped of his power and lifestyle that we, as the audience have experienced from Hill's perspective, in replace of this we have been left with an anticlimax of an ending where Hill ends up living a dull, defeated and pointless life in suburbia in the witness protection programme. Clearly Scorsese defies our narrative expectations by showing Henry ending up in normality instead of ending up dead. Word Count: 1620 ...read more.

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