Director Martin Scorsese’s crime drama gets an ace performance from Ray Liotta, as a young man who happily embraces the mobster life.

The sordid, violent and foul-mouthed subject matter is one thing, but the sheer exuberance with which the story is told ensures that this is one of the all-time great gangster movies.

Liotta is excellent, Oscar-winning Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro are both outstanding as his pathological pals and Paul Sorvino breathes quiet power as their boss.

Pure movie magic is much in evidence as the roving camera introduces us to De Niro’s favourite bar, there’s an exhilarating extended sequence in which Liotta takes Lorraine Bracco to a nightclub and the film’s withering sense of black comedy is often more frightening than funny.