For years now I’ve been fighting a single-handed defence of the later career of Robert De Niro (no defence, of course, being necessary for the early career which featured Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter). This defence has several arguments. Firstly, his decline hasn’t been nearly as pronounced – or as strange – as Al Pacino’s. Secondly, he was making some unusual decisions even during the eighties and, frankly, one Harry Tuttle – the renegade central heating engineer in Brazil – or foul-mouthed bail bondsman Jack Walsh (Midnight Run) will get you a free pass for an awful lot of We’re No Angels.
In the nineties, too, he would make choices that fans of Raging Bull and King of Comedy would think were beneath him – Mad Dog and Glory, Frankenstein – but also pull out Wag the Dog and Jackie Brown. It’s been clear for a while now that De Niro is something of a workaholic – and an actor who waits for projects as good as Goodfellas is an actor who doesn’t work all that often.