Domestic Violence in Movies: Casino (1995)

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In the United States, Nevada ranks first in domestic violence killings. Therefore, we decided to take a look at the 1995 Martin Scorsese film, Casino, to analyze its portrayal of domestic violence. The setting is Las Vegas, and the movie is based on a non-fiction book by the same name.

This movie primarily shows us examples of domestic violence toward men, but there are also instances toward women. The movie is about a wealthy, skilled gambler-mobster named Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (Robert Dinero), who marries Ginger (Sharon Stone), a hustler who draws high-rollers to the casino. While the theme of the movie is about corruption, the relationship of the married couple is a major part.

Very reluctant at first, Ginger marries Sam after a lot of convincing, and Sam tells her he will always be able to take care of her. He truly seems to care deeply about Ginger. However, from the start of their marriage, Ginger goes behind Sam’s back and speaks to her abusive ex-boyfriend, eventually giving him tens of thousands of dollars of Sam’s money. All the while, she is drinking frequently, doing drugs and stealing her husband’s prescription medication, and it is implied that she may also have a mental illness. She frequently lies to Sam about her whereabouts.

With that, Ginger often acts violently toward her husband, and she is abusive and neglectful to their child. Here are some examples:

  • Sam overhears Ginger on the phone, and she says she wishes Sam was killed. When Sam pulls the phone away, Ginger turns around and hits him while screaming, “I hate your guts!” 
  • One night when she alone with her daughter Amy (who looks about eight year old), Ginger ties the child to the bed post and locks the door. Then she leaves for the evening.
  • She hits Sam when he kicks her out of the house and tells her to pack her bags.
  • Ginger drives home one morning and deliberately crashes her car into Sam’s Mercedes several times; she drives over the lawn and threatens to crash through the living room, she curses loudly at Sam, and then she throws parts of a plant at Sam’s face. Watch the scene below.
  • Ginger does illegal drugs in front of Amy.
  • Ginger’s ex-boyfriend is abusive; he told Amy to shut up, and the he threatened to slap her in the face.
  • She cheats on Sam with his mobster friend, Nicky– whom she also hits multiple times. Then Nicky hits her back once.

Ginger scene:

While Sam never hits Ginger, sometimes his reactions are still violent. Here is how he reacts after some of the incidents mentioned above:

  • He threatens to kill Ginger if she ever abuses their daughter again.
  • He grabs at her collar and curses at her after repeatedly telling her to leave a restaurant (right after he found their daughter tied to the bed)
  • When Ginger tries hitting Sam one night, he restrains her and drags her toward her closet so that she can pack her bags and get out of the house.

When Sam kicks Ginger out of the house, she returns in the middle of the night. And he is happy she came back. He narrates,

“The funny thing was after all that, I didn’t want her to go. She was the mother of my kid; I loved her.” 

From these examples, it is evident that Sam exhibits multiple characteristics of a domestic violence victim. No matter how horribly Ginger treats Sam, he still loves her. Love is often a major reason that victims remain in abusive relationships. Secondly, he still has hope that she will change, even though she has proven time and time again that she cannot be trusted. She has never sought help, but Sam still believes there is hope for her; she even says she will do better, but she never follows through.  At the same time, Sam has never suggested to her that she seek help, but she clearly needs it.

Financial issues are also at stake, which is common in domestic violence cases. In Sam’s case, he is involved with illegal business in the casino industry, which probably also makes him want to avoid drawing too much attention to his family. While Sam is the one with all the money, he worries that if he gives his wife all the money she was asking for, all at once, she might leave him for good. Maintaining family unity at all costs is another trait that Sam exemplifies; he wants to stay with Ginger because she is the mother of his child. [Source].

Not only is Ginger and Sam’s relationship toxic for each other, but the toxicity also carries over to their daughter’s life. Ginger’s behavior puts her daughter in danger. According to Psych Central, “Children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused in homes where partner abuse occurs. These children have a six times greater chance of committing suicide, 24 percent greater chance committing sexual assault crimes and a 50 percent greater likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol” [source]. Additionally, girls who are abused in childhood are likely to become victims of domestic violence as adults.

At the end of the movie, we learn that Ginger dies of a “hot dose” [of drugs]. She was no longer with Sam at this time. Some movie reviews suggest that her death was a plotted murder, but it is not specified who might have done that to her.

One of Sam’s closing lines in the narration says a lot:

When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point? And for a while, I believed, that’s the kind of love I had.” 

At least he eventually learned…

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Trivia:

-For her role as Ginger, Sharon Stone won a Golden Globe for “Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama,” and she was also nominated for an Academy Award (“Best Actress in a Leading Role”).

-Martin Scorsese was also nominated for a Golden Globe as  “Best Director.”

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