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The Independent Critic

Conceived and Directed by
Joseph F. Alexandre
Running Time
Est. 15 Mins.


 "Back Home Years Ago: The Real Casino" Review 
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Fans of the film Casino, and they do exist, may very well marvel at director Joseph F. Alexandre's Back Home Years Ago: The Real Casino, a short doc that centers around the real life characters behind Nicholas Pileggi's novel that served as the basis of Casino. For those who've never seen Casino or consider it not much more than a distant cinematic history, Alexandre's doc may serve more as a vivid reminder of society's fascination with the gangster lifestyle and its not so glamorous roots.

Impressively, Alexandre has gained access to a wide array of individuals from inside and outside the Chicago "family" tree including those whose characters are in the film such as Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal (DeNiro's character), Tony Spilotro (Pesci's character), Alan Dorfman (Alan King's character) and others. Alexandre rather understandably utilizes a "dark screen" technique quite often, an effort to shield the identity of his obviously secretive interview subjects, and incorporates staged recreations that give the film a sort of B-movie feeling that complements the film nicely.

Much of Back Home Years Ago consists of "talking heads," a rather straightforward doc approach that works when the heads in question have something interesting to say. For much of the film, this is definitely true. There's a palpable sense of anxiousness in the film, perhaps due to the underlying realization that these are real people who've done, at least in some cases, some real bad things.

Yet, technically, Back Home Years Ago is hurt by a somewhat weakened sound mix and lighting that is inconsistent and uneven. While Alexandre undoubtedly had to interview his subjects in a variety of settings, the technical inconsistencies are distracting and occasionally the film has a bit of a muffled sound that is bothersome. Alexandre's doc looks and feels like a film that would play on a cable channel, perhaps not surprising as one version of it has played on PBS and a shorter version was seen on John Pierson's Split Screen show on both the Independent Film Channel and Bravo!

Now available on DVD through Netflix and soon through a variety of commercial outlets, Back Home Years Ago: The Real Casino has been buffed up to a full-length DVD of 74 minutes when one takes into consideration DVD extras including both the 14 minute and 7 minute versions of the film along with deleted scenes and bonus interviews.