I love all the time spent developing Henry's character early in the film. Despite all of the bad stuff he ends up doing, I still have a sense that he's not truly evil. This is what makes a 3 hour about a gangster watchable. I look at Henry as being caught up in a whirlwind. "Here I am, a little kid, parking Cadillacs", "I knew everyone and everyone knew me". At his age, could I have resisted that sort of money, the popularity, and the purpose? It's only later in life, once he's neck deep, that he can look back and see the path he came down. And this is where the narration comes into play. It's not boastful, but honest. You can sense the regret, the enthusiasm, the pride, the remorse and everything else. He was bit of a naive kid, a bit of a cruel twenty-something year old, but we've all had stages in our lives where we look back and see how crazy we acted. He's going through the same thing anybody goes through, it's just that his environment is different than most peoples. Even Karen, who enters Henry's world as adult, quickly gets used to the idea that her husband is a criminal. She says herself "it was more like henry was enterprising" as she reflects on how normal it all felt. I think it's a potent lesson about how easy it is to get caught up in things and be totally unaware of it happening. You only realize it was thin ice after you fall in the water.
The characters in Goodfellas feel more human than most, and yet it's a film about gangsters.
I'll go over Three Kings tomorrow.