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|“||You know, you've got the wrong impression about me. I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and... walk in and see and, uh... if you don't have my money for me, I'll... crack your f-ckin' head wide open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your f-ckin' head open again. 'Cause I'm f-ckin' stupid. I don't give a f-ck about jail. That's my business. That's what I do! And you know what you do, don't we, Charlie? You f-ck people out of money and get away with it.||„|
|~ Nicky Santoro on his methods.|
Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro is the main antagonist in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film Casino. He is based off real life Chicago Outfit enforcer Anthony John "The Ant" Spilotro.
He was portrayed by Joe Pesci, who also played Frankie Monaldi in Once Upon a Time in America, Mr. Big in Moonwalker, Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, Harry in Home Alone and Home Alone 2, and Ronald Grump in Sesame Street.
Nicky Santoro was a childhood friend of Jewish handicapper Sam "Ace" Rothstein, as well as his best-friend at the time. Nicky worked for the Mafia boss Remo Gaggi, whom made Santoro. When the Mafia decided to move into Las Vegas to skim the profits of the Tangiers Casino, they chose Ace to run the casino while Nicky was assigned to protect him. Nicky had his right-hand man Frankie Marino help him out with this along with his plan to expand his criminal activities.
It quickly transpired that Nicky was a psychopath who would attack or kill anyone he saw as a threat. A prime example was when Nicky repeatedly stabbed a man in the neck with a pen after he had insulted Ace, later beating him and stabbing him some more before making fun of him for crying. The man most likely died as a result of this. Nicky also intimidated the bookmakers in Las Vegas. Despite his life of crime, Nicky was also a devoted husband and father. He would attend his son's presentations at school, as well as get him into a Little League baseball game. Nicky tried to forget about the fact that the Little League was run by a cop, and was even friendly to him. Every morning, Nicky always made sure he was home to cook breakfast for his son, and commented how smart his son was.
After a while, Nicky asked Ace if he could come with him to Las Vegas. Ace agreed but tried to warn Nicky to keep a low profile, as the authorities have a zero tolerance policy to organized crime. Nicky ignored the warning and started to run crime in Las Vegas. Eventually, Nicky's antics got himself banned from every casino in Las Vegas and his name was added to the Black Book. This didn't stop Nicky, and he set up his own gang, including his younger brother Dominick, to burgle peoples houses. He also set up a jewelry store and a restaurant to act as legitimate fronts to his gangland uprising.
One of the most brutal murder that Nicky took part in was the murder of Tony Dogs, an Irish-American mobster who had shot up one of Remo's bars, killing two of Remo's men and an innocent waitress. Nicky was assigned with torturing Dogs to find out the other men involved. Nicky admitted that he admired Dogs for being so tough, as he beat up Dogs for two days and two nights with help from Frankie and Dominic, but Dogs never talked. Eventually, they had to put Dogs' head in a vice. Nicky tried to reason with Dogs, but Dogs only insulted Nicky. This annoyed Nicky so much, that he tightened the vice till Dogs eye popped out. After this, Dogs admitted that the other man was Charlie M. Nicky screamed at Dogs for being so dumb as to protect a "piece of shit" like Charlie M. Frankie finishes off Dogs by slitting his throat.
Nicky was required to help Ace out after he discovers that his wife Ginger McKenna has been giving money to her ex-boyfriend Lester Diamond behind his back. Nicky was instructed by Ace to follow Lester and have his gang severely beat Lester, while Nicky watches. Ace made Ginger watch Lester being beaten and she was really upset. Ginger later goes to Nicky asking why Ace had to do that. Nicky states the Ace loves her very much and she should try working it out with him. However, this starts an affair between Nicky and Ginger, something which the mafia bosses do not tolerate.
Nicky's services as a hitman are called in when a businesswoman Anna Scott shows up at the casino and demands that her ex-partner gives her money. Scott sues him in court, and Green must show where he got the funding, which was from the mafia. Gaggi, furious over the outcome, sends Nicky to murder Scott. This causes police to start looking at Green as well (although he had no idea of the murder).
The media starts speculating whether Ace's friendship with Nicky could affect his license hearing, although he was promised a fair one from the senator. After Nicky threatens Ace's banker, Ace tells him that he needs to calm down with the way he's been doing things. The bosses also agree, Gaggi tells Marino to tell Nicky to handle things quieter. Nicky starts showing his contempt for the Outfit and starts getting aggravated with Ace. He also starts figuring out ways to throw off the detectives who have constant surveillance on him, such as radar and switching cars multiple times. Ace realizes what he wants to do, he wants to overthrow Gaggi and take control of everything.
When Stone tells Nicky what Ace said, Nicky meets Ace out in the desert, where he angrily tells him never to talk behind his back again. The two are so angry at each other that when Ace sees Nicky, Frankie, and Dominick at a restaurant, he pretends he doesn't know him. Out of spite, Nicky shows up ai the Tangiers, despite being banned. After Ace tells Nicky to hurry up and get out, Nicky loses his temper again, this time, on Billy Sherbert. He calls him a Jew prick and beats him with a telephone.
Gaggi asks Marino whether he knows if Nicky's sleeping with Ace's wife. Marino narrates that he knew it could get Ace, Ginger, and Nicky killed if he told the truth. So he lies, even though he puts himself in danger as well. By now, Nicky and his crew have become coke addicts and alcoholics, affecting the way they work. They start doing stupid things, like shooting up cop's houses after the police killed one of their members. Nicky is also worried that Ace will go to Gaggi and tell him about the affair. Even though he hasn't made up his mind, Nicky tells Frankie to start getting ready to have Ace killed, if it comes to that.
One night, Ace calls his home from the casino, but no one answers. When he gets home, he finds his daughter Amy tied to her bedpost, by Ginger. He finds out she's at Nicky's restaurant and quickly goes there. He goes to her table and warns her if she ever abuses Amy again he'll kill her. They get home where they argue some more, only to have Ginger return to Nicky's. They argue in the back of the restaurant, and Ginger asks Nicky to have Ace killed. Nicky refuses, that he's been Ace's friend for 35 years. Nicky is more worried that the bosses are going to find out. In a fit of rage, Ginger attacks Nicky, and after being slapped a couple of times, is literally thrown out by Nicky and Frankie. Ace calls Billy Sherbert and asks him to come over to his house with his gun, fearing for his life.
While Nicky had skipped town, the FBI executes search warrants on his house and the Gold Rush, arresting Dominick, Frankie, and the rest of the crew. The feds seize the casino and start going through the books. Philip Green admits he was being extorted and is willing to cooperate. While going through Artie Piscano's house, the feds find his record books, giving them all they need. Piscano becomes so upset that he drops dead from a heart attack. They even show Ace the pictures of Ginger and Nicky, but Ace doesn't want to look at them. The Chicago Outfit is indicted with skimming the casino and they decide to murder anyone who can incriminate them. They reluctantly kill Andy Stone in fear that he may talk, although Nicky states a big reason is that he wasn't Italian. John Nance is also killed while hiding from the feds in Costa Rica (Nance's son had been busted for drugs, and the bosses were afraid he'd come out to save his son). Also on the Outfits hit-list are two of the men from the counting room. Pretty soon, anyone who knew anything is getting killed. After Ginger left, she hooked up with some lowlifes and blew through all the money and jewels. She later is found dead from a cocaine overdose. Ace himself is nearly killed by a car bomb, from the opening scene. While the media believes it was orchestrated by the bosses, Ace believes that Nicky is somehow involved.
But Ace never gets the chance to question Nicky as — by now — the bosses have officially lost patience with their one-time enforcer; a combination of being barred from the casinos, the heat he brought from his unauthorized murders and burglaries, and the disruptions caused by sleeping with a married woman are all too much for the bosses to handle, and they decide to have him eliminated. Some time after his gang posts bail, Nicky arranges a meeting with Frankie and the others in a cornfield, only to find too late that his former associates have been hired as hitmen on behalf of the bosses.
The moment they get within arm's reach of Nicky, they hold him down as they pummel Dominick to a bloody pulp with baseball bats, with Frankie leading the beatdown (having apparently had enough of taking orders from Nicky). Pinned down and forced to watch, Nicky can only look on as the gang beat Dominick to within an each of his life, then strip him and haul his unconscious body into a shallow grave after Nicky begs Frankie to stop. They then repeat the process on Nicky; however, rather than knocking him out as they did with Dominick, they leave him just conscious enough to remain aware while they begin burying him. Nicky Santoro is last seen lying in the shallow grave alongside his brother, writhing helplessly as Frankie and the others shovel dirt into his face, slowly burying him alive while he was still breathing.
|“||No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead.||„|
|~ Sam Rothstein on Nicky.|
As mentioned previously, Nicky Santoro is a psychopath. His hot temper causes him to act impulsively, as he will kill anyone whom he sees as a threat but he can attack innocent people too. However, Nicky is a family man and he never gets angry with his family. Early on in the film, Nicky is fiercely loyal to Ace and the Outfit. Nicky's loyalty begins to wane after he feels he is ignored by Ace and he starts to betray him.
Although he is a violent gangster, Nicky is shown to have high standards. He gets angry at a degenerate gambler and at his friend for putting his feet on a casino table. Nicky is also disgusted at hitman Tony Dogs for shooting an innocent waitress when she shouldn't have been working and he gets angry at Ginger for flippantly asking him to kill his friend of 35 years.
- In the original script, Lester was supposed to be shot in the desert by Nicky as a favor to Sam.
- Danny DeVito was considered for the role of Nicky Santoro before Joe Pesci was cast.