I recently watched Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995), which is an excellent epic crime drama. It is about the rise and fall of a casino executive, and his dealings with the Italian mob. The story is interesting, the acting is great, and the movie is furthermore a visual spectacle. I do not want to spoil anything, but Sharon Stone playing a bipolar whore is astounding. You will not get to see anything comparable to this in Western movies nowadays.
Casino is a very serious movie that takes a dark turn already in the opening sequence. Probably in an attempt to not overly depress the viewer there is a crass character, Nicky Santoro, which is played by Joe Pesci. This character seems to primarily have the purpose of providing comic relief. I wonder, though, if some of his racial epithets (hebe, Jewish fuck, fucking Jew, Jew-prick, sand niggers, etc.) would survive a rerelease of this movie in the current year. If you watch it on a streaming service, there is a non-zero chance that some edits will have been made in order to not offend “modern audiences”.
Joe Pesci has played the hot-headed mobster in Casino as well as in Goodfellas, and some other movies. Interestingly, he is quite short. The combination of his characters engaging in excessive violence, showing extremely low impulse control, and having quite a foul moth is quite remarkable. In real life, this combination would not exist. I have found, however, that some people misinterpret characters like this and take cues from them. Leadership in the real world, however, does not mean that you run around like a madman or that you can afford to have people cower in fear whenever you show up. You need their support. You will not be accepted as a leader, however, if you behave in an erratic way as people need to be able to look up to you and trust that you will make good decisions. Your decisions will affect them and if you cannot do it, then people will go elsewhere. This happens in sports, organized crime, and business alike.
In reality, a hothead will get his shit pushed in, literally or figuratively. Any organization that does not do this will not be able to amount to much. It is absolutely inconceivable that someone who randomly kills a stranger in a bar, like Pesci’s character in Casino, would be the mob boss of an entire city. What would his power and authority be built on? You can watch this scene below.
You need to be able to trust your boss, no matter your line of work. If you cannot trust that he will objectively assess a problem and instead lash out against the messenger, then his entire basis of decision making will sooner or later collapse. Anybody who sees such behavior this will simply leave. In business, I have witnessed a few quite remarkable cases. One of the more egregious one is about a woman who was hired as a senior manager. She was a token female hire and knew shockingly little about her domain. Within three or four months, all her direct reports had resigned. This was a really messed up situation because the entire layer of managers under her had disappeared. I don’t know what happened to her because she has not updated her LinkedIn profile in quite a while. I do know that a few people were hastily promoted to manager, and that this was also a bit messy. I have also seen cases where guys got promoted due to nepotism, which also led to people leaving. Granted, this happened during the Covid-fuelled bubble in tech, but even today it is not the case that there are no jobs out there. You will not be able to keep your best employees if they think their manager is incompetent, hot-headed, or erratic in his or her decision making.
Joe Pesci’s character in Casino can only exist in a movie. In the real life, such people would have a really hard time making it past the entry level. In fact, they likely would not even be able to get an entry-level gig. I have been asking myself whether the inclusion of unrealistic characters like Nicky Santoro could realistically be considered a flaw of Casino and other epic crime movies, but I think that three hours of dreariness would be a really tough sell. You need something to lighten the mood. Without Pesci’s character, Casino may only have been possible as a 90-minute movie. Instead, it is about twice as long, and ultimately I think the movie benefits from it. In the real world, though, you probably want to neither emulate such antics, nor work for someone who exhibits them.