Noting Scorsese’s penchant for showcasing a family unraveled, no such scene in his career is more devastating than Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) viciously kicking his wife, Ginger (Sharon Stone) out of their house. The scene takes place shortly after Ginger has come back into town after running off with her and Ace’s daughter for several days. Ace welcomes Ginger back, but berates her at a public dinner, forcing Ginger to leave the restaurant. That night, Ace overhears Ginger whisper into the phone how badly she wants Ace killed. The camera cuts to below Ginger, just as Ace (who ingeniously moves into the camera’s focus) quietly comes up behind her. Ginger stops talking.
Ace grabs the phone, Ginger quickly attacks him, and what ensues are two of the most uncomfortable consecutive minutes I’ve ever seen on film.
As Ginger screams how much she hates Ace, he drags her on the ground through several rooms. This shot in particular is especially troubling, as Scorsese wisely keeps his distance, and holds the shot without cutting away. Editing cuts would be a distraction. By keeping it in one shot, the viewer is forced to watch this chaos unfold.
Ace drags her into the closest, angrily packs a small bag, throws some money in her face and pushes her out the front door. Two minutes, and we’re done. Why then does this scene last so much longer in my mind?
For starters, this is the scene Sharon Stone was born to play. Say what you want about the inconsistencies of her acting from film to film, as Ginger, Stone fucking nailed it. This scene is the highlight of a perfect performance. She goes all in, and it literally knocks the wind out of me. We all know Robert De Niro is capable of conveying the anger that rushes through Ace in this scene. What’s interesting here is that De Niro holds back, if ever so slightly. Sure, there are many unsettling screams and threats, but I always think he’s going to haul off and punch Ginger in the face. Thankfully, he’s more restrained than that.
Casino is a damn violent movie, but this is by far the most disturbing scene in the film. Whenever I arrive at this sequence, chills run down my spine and I squirm nervously in my chair. Two actors going all in, a few cuts, and a steady camera. That’s all Martin Scorsese needs to floor us.