How great was Ray Liotta? He had me on ‘Something Wild’

I was excited to see Goodfellas when it opened in 1990. Excited because it was a Martin Scorsese film – maybe more specifically because it was a Scorsese gangster Movie. Excited because it was based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi wise guy, about gangster Henry Hill, which I think is the best book ever written on how organized crime actually works. I was also delighted with the cast which included Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco and Joe Pesci and was led by then young actor Ray Liotta who died this week at the age of 67 and is the reason I am writing this now.

How many people did I come from Goodfellas rave about how good it was. The acting, the beautifully designed dialogues, the baroque tracking shots – it was virtuoso filmmaking at its finest. The only moment that separated me from the crowd was the shock and awe of Liotta’s performance as Henry Hill. I didn’t begrudge them their delight or surprise at how good he was, and I certainly didn’t think they were wrong. It was a strong performance. Liotta might have had a lot of Class A help, but he still did carries this movie from start to finish.

What I didn’t say because I don’t like it when people think I’m crazy is that he could have done better. Because he would have. Because I’ve seen him do it, and so have you if you’ve seen Jonathan Demmes Something wildwhich came out four years earlier.

In this film, Liotta doesn’t show up until about a third into the entrance, when he crawls onto the dance floor to join Melanie Griffith at their high school reunion, singing in a voice that suddenly contains syrup and strychnine and a world full of hurt of all kinds, “Hiya , Audrey.”

As you may remember, in Something wilduptight Wall Streeter Jeff Daniels lets a total stranger, the deranged Melanie Griffith, take him out for lunch, and somehow it quickly turns into a weekend road trip to Pennsylvania, which Daniels finances with petty cash from his office’s Christmas fund.

“The moment Liotta enters the frame, the temperature drops by about 20 degrees, and within about ten minutes… we find ourselves in another film. And it’s a very dark, very scary movie, and it’s all because of Ray Liotta.”

We laugh for a good half hour as Daniels keeps getting into trouble, but it’s his problems, not ours, so who cares? Everything is played for laughs. He’s sweating, we’re giggling. It’s a screwball comedy where, like we all do from all the other screwball comedies we’ve seen, the giddy lady will make her slow-moving pony friend discover his humanity – while also making him fall in love with her Course. and Something wild is really laughable. It’s one of the best screwball comedies of all time. Until it isn’t.

The moment Liotta enters the picture, the temperature drops about 20 degrees and within about ten minutes – the time it takes Ray and his date to sneak up on Griffith and Daniels and then from the reunion to a Quikmart to drive, the Liotta robs – we find ourselves in a completely different film. And it’s a very dark, very scary movie, and it’s all because of Ray Liotta.

Because not for a second – and this is also true if you watch the film a second or third time – you stop believing that this man on screen is a stone-cold killer who is capable of anything at any time. You never think, oh what an accomplishment. He doesn’t give you time to think. You can’t stop watching him and you can’t stop being scared. And did I say how charming he is throughout? Even likeable for a while. Psychopath? sociopath? Maybe, but mental illness isn’t really the problem. Naming Ray Sinclair, the character Liotta plays, doesn’t make him any less terrifying.

So yes, when I saw Liotta’s performance Goodfellas, I admired it. I even got lost in it at times and more or less forgot he was an actor in a movie. He’s very good in this film. But Henry Hill is a bit of a mug. The real joy of Goodfellas is a step or two ahead of him all the way. We know he’s going to screw it up. It’s just a matter of how and when. Liotta will perform well given a role like that, but there is no place for threats in Henry and threats have always been what Liotta did best.

So when people are praising Ray Liotta for his performance Goodfellas, I will not complain. But I’ll think about it, if you really wanted to see how awesome this guy can be, doing what only great screen villains can do and at the same time scaring you and yet making you unable to look at the screen, then you have to pay attention Something wild. It will teach you everything you need to know about how amazing Ray Liotta was. How great was Ray Liotta? He had me on ‘Something Wild’


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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